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It was the Year of Years. 2022 was the extended and invigorated season in which sailing in Ireland finally and fully emerged from the very complete set of pandemic-imposed restrictions. At home and abroad, our hugely varied individuals, groups and crowds of boat enthusiasts re-learned how to fulfill their interests afloat, whether it was in competition at the highest level internationally, nationally, regionally, or in the local setting, and in dinghies or keelboats, racing or cruising

Certainly, there'd been limited sport afloat for much of the lockdown time. But it was often in a very restricted way, in an atmosphere of behavioural boundaries which were totally at variance with our perception of freedom and self-reliance as being central to life on the water. Thus the increasingly fresh feeling of joy in boats as 2022 progressed resulted in an explosion of activity.

To do this justice, the Afloat.ie adjudication process had to accept that there would have to be an unprecedented number of nominations each month. For we have long since learned - having inaugurated the contest in 1996 - that just one nomination per month does not remotely reflect the reality of Irish life around boats.

Thus with an exceptional season of re-birth, as provided by 2022, the nominations inevitably increased even further and reached a remarkable total of fifty. This has not made the final assessment any easier. But as the ethos of Afloat.ie is based on accurately reflecting the reality of sailing and boating in Ireland, very special times deserved very special treatment, and every one of those fifty nominees has achieved something remarkable afloat.

The new "Irish Sailor of the Year" will be announced in Afloat's Sailing on Saturday column by WM Nixon this weekend, February 11th.

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You can tell a lot about someone’s personality through the way in which they react generously – or not – to the fact that for 2022, the Post-Pandemic Year in which Life Afloat With All Its Apres Sailing Ashore Was Fully Resumed, here at Afloat.ie we’ve come up with fifty “Sailors of the Month” currently open for voting for the “Sailor of the Year”. The truly generous-hearted who really know their sailing in general - and Irish sailing in particular – have cheerfully wondered how on earth we managed to get it down to fifty which - when all is said and done - is slightly less than one a week. But against that, there are those for whom life has to be completely and rigidly defined and limited, folk who claim we should return to the original concept of 27 years ago – soon discarded as we analysed the total complexity if our sport – by returning the contest to just one-a-month.

We would argue that while sailing is now a global year-round sport with Irish talent in action twelve months of the year, nevertheless for most the busiest time is the six-month period around the summer months with late May to early September producing such a cornucopia of hugely-varied activity under sail - with events as spectacular as the Europeans for the reviving 1720 Sportsboats during Volvo Cork Week - that all of it deserves special recognition. 

INTERNATIONAL WINTERS, BUSY HOME SUMMERS

For sure, the winter months will see an emphasis on international competitive achievement at majors in places where the sun still shines. But when it’s summer in Ireland, the adjudicators will find themselves considering feats of success in activities as diverse as the time-honoured racing of the Galway Hookers in the west, set in configuration against the latest buzzfest of the foiling Waszp Class in the east.

Essence of the west – the enduring traditions of the Galway Hookers were honoured with January 2022’s SoM award to Paul Kehoe of the Niamh CronanEssence of the west – the enduring traditions of the Galway Hookers were honoured with January 2022’s SoM award to Paul Kehoe of the Niamh Cronan Photo: Galway Hooker Association 

Complete contrast – Wazps in action on Dublin Bay with Royal St George YCComplete contrast – Wazps in action on Dublin Bay with Royal St George YC

In between those two extremes of sailing, there’s everything from intense racing in classics such as the Shannon One Designs or the Howth Seventeens or the Dublin Bay Water Wags through other One Design keelboat and dinghy classes, and on into the almost infinite varieties of inshore and offshore cruiser-racing. Beyond that again, there’s cruising itself in its extraordinary variety within a greater sailing matrix which would simply fall apart were it not for the voluntary input of organisers of all sorts, whose excellent work we try to recognise with our “Services to Sailing” category.

And then, on an almost invisible Everest-like peak, there’s the tightly-controlled area of High Performance Academy Sailing, ultimately focused on widely-recognised international trophies and preferably Olympic medals. For with a vehicle sport like sailing, with its diversity, individuality, and - for many - near incomprehensibility, the all-or-nothing nature of an Olympic Medal is about as much as they’re willing to grasp, whether it be the fast-changing attention of the general public or the self-interested focus of politicians seeing how best to spend government money for useful political returns.

Multiple Gold Medallist Eve McMahon may have official resources support, but she still relies on extensive backing of all kinds from family and friendsMultiple Gold Medallist Eve McMahon may have official resources support, but she still relies on extensive backing of all kinds from family and friends

On the water, this results in a funded elite at one end of the spectrum which still needs support of all kinds from family and friends while knowing that they have the safety net of nationally-supported schemes to underpin their efforts, while at the other extreme there are those who are starting on their own.

EXTRA CHALLENGE OF MAKING IT ON YOUR OWN

Having failed to achieve recognition in the most junior phases of the national sailing programme, their performance suddenly starts to blossom when they move into a new class and maybe team up with a fresh crewmate from another club. Seemingly out of nowhere, we have an under-resourced gleam of young promise, and it certainly focuses the minds of the adjudicators when some choice of a Junior Sailor of the Month results in an email from a grateful parent stating unequivocally that the accolade is greatly helping fund-raising efforts.

In those circumstances, there’s a temptation to give an award to any achievement, however specialised the circumstances. But in the final analysis, the key to it all is defining the context, and seeing how the outcome fits in with what the sailor in question was trying to do in the first place. 

Round Ireland Race start at Wicklow in the depths of the Recession in 2014, when many boats deserved an award simply for being thereRound Ireland Race start at Wicklow in the depths of the Recession in 2014, when many boats deserved an award simply for being there Photo: W M Nixon

The Round Ireland Race from Wicklow is a perfect case in point. Time was back in 1992 when, having prepared our own mature but still potent boat with much hard work for her first Ireland Race back, we’d have happily given an award to anyone who qualified to cross the starting line. Then there was a stage when we’d have been all for it when somebody simply finished the race, and indeed there are clubs in the more remote parts of Ireland which still do that when a local crew - on their first attempt - successfully complete the 704-mile course, regardless of their final placing.

BIG BOYS’ GAME, BIG BOYS’ RULES

But with national standards rising every year, so we see an upping of the ante, and 2022’s Round Ireland produced only one “Sailor of the Month”. For it’s now a case of being the Big Boys’ Game, playing by the Big Boys’ Rules. Thus, for instance, if you entered the Round Britain and Ireland Race from Plymouth via Galway, Lerwick in the Shetlands, Blyth in Northumberland, and back to Plymouth to complete 2000 miles, you’d have done quite something if you managed to get as far as Lerwick. But as that wasn’t the purpose of the challenge, it wouldn’t be eligible for “Sailor of the Month” consideration unless your retiral was related to a prolonged delay in order to assist another entry in difficulties.

Food….lovely food. Newly-arrived competitors in the 2022 RWYC Round Britain & Ireland Race dealing with their main priorities during the Galway stopover. Photo: GBSCFood….lovely food. Newly-arrived competitors in the 2022 RWYC Round Britain & Ireland Race dealing with their main priorities during the Galway stopover. Photo: GBSC 

However, once we accept that definition of context is the primary consideration, the variety of awards can become almost infinite. Thus in late June and early July, the “Round Ireland Race on the Outside” was under way from Wicklow, while in the middle of Ireland a sort of “Round Ireland Race On The Inside” was taking place with the Shannon One Designs’ first special Centenary Regatta at Lough Derg YC.

OVER-LAPPNG OF DIVERSE SAILING WORLDS

It may seem at first that we’re considering sailing worlds so far apart as to be incapable of comparison. Yet the success of Mike and Richie Evans in their J/99 Snapshot in getting along the rugged Atlantic off the coast of County Clare so well that they went on to success in the Round Ireland race is in the same spirit as the good showing on fresh water, just a hundred miles away in County Tipperary, by Frank Guy and his family and friends racing Shannon OD No 142 in a steady points build-up which resulted – after the second Centenary regatta at Lough Ree – in the Centenary Champion title and a “Sailor of the Month” title for Frank Guy.

Champion in the making. Frank Guy’s Centenary Champion Shannon One Design No 142 making impressive progress in the Long Distance Race down-river from Lough Ree to Lough Derg, June 2022. Photo_ Shannon OD Association

In fact, we find that the true Irish Corinthian sailor will hope to enjoy as many different forms of sailing as our extraordinary island can offer. Mention of the Round Britain and Ireland Race and the Shannon One Designs in one breath is a reminder that top SOD sailors Jocelyn Waller of Lough Derg and current class Chairman (and Sailor of the Month awardee) Philip Mayne once successfully did the RB&I In the former’s First Class 12 Silk – just a slip of a boat.

And as for Mike Evans of Snapshot, the Round Ireland achievement was quite something, but for me the one photo which captures the spirit of Irish sailing is the image aboard Snapshot during Calves Week in August in West Cork, with Richie Evans on the tiller, Mike checking the numbers, and Des Flood on trim and looking forward to the forthcoming celebration of his great sailing father Sean’s 90th birthday in a few days’ time.

West Cork for sport – Des Flood, Richie Evans and Mike Evans aboard Snapshot with the Fastnet Rock astern and success ahead at Calves Week 2022 at SchullWest Cork for sport – Des Flood, Richie Evans and Mike Evans aboard Snapshot with the Fastnet Rock astern and success ahead at Calves Week 2022 at Schull

As if that weren’t enough, when Howth YC got its cheekily-titled Spring Series 2023 under way early in January, didn’t Mike Evans turn up for some alternative sport with his RS800? Top that.

Just can’t get enough of it…..Mike Evans racing his RS800 in the current “Spring Series” at Howth. Photo: HYCJust can’t get enough of it…..Mike Evans racing his RS800 in the current “Spring Series” at Howth. Photo: HYC

Published in W M Nixon
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Who gets your vote for the Irish Sailor of the Year 2022?

50 Afloat Sailors of the Month in 2022 (double that awarded in 2021) demonstrate the strength and diversity of the sport of sailing in Ireland.

Afloat's review of individual sailors, pairings and crews (below) is a roll call of all those who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruising, windsurfing, sailing administration, plus some amazing achievements in ocean rowing too! 

In February, Afloat's judging panel will announce the Irish Sailor of the Year  — and you can have your say by voting in our poll on any page of the Afloat website (see right of this page).

IRISH SAILORS OF THE MONTH 2022

JANUARY

Offshore: JIM SCHOFIELD (Blessington)

Offshore: JIM SCHOFIELD (Blessington)Offshore: JIM SCHOFIELD (Blessington)

Jim Schofield (57) completed the ultimate pandemic project by self-building his 19ft McIntyre Globe 5.80 Molly Claire in his own space-limited workshop in Blessington, and then sailing from Poolbeg in Dublin via the Canaries Transatlantic to the Caribbean.

Services to Sailing: PAUL KEHOE (Poolbeg, Dublin Port)

Services to Sailing: PAUL KEHOE (Poolbeg, Dublin Port)Services to Sailing: PAUL KEHOE (Poolbeg, Dublin Port)

For long renowned as “The Man Who Kept The Show On The Road”, in January 2022, Paul Kehoe received the international Old Gaffers Association’s premier award, the Jolie Brise Trophy, for his 25 years-plus successful years of managing and sailing the Clondalkin community-built traditional Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan, which has now been transferred to Galway City ownership.   

International: JUSTIN SLATTERY (Wexford & Cork) 

International: JUSTIN SLATTERY (Wexford & Cork) International: JUSTIN SLATTERY (Wexford & Cork) 

A regular crewman aboard the legendary 100ft Comanche, Justin Slattery was on the big boat for the overall win in the RORC Transatlantic Race  in Jauuary, and at year’s end he was also with Comanche when she took line honours in the Sydney-Hobart Race in December 2022.

FEBRUARY 

Ocean Rowing: KAREN WEEKES (Kinvara)

Ocean Rowing: KAREN WEEKES (Kinvara)Ocean Rowing: KAREN WEEKES (Kinvara)

In rowing solo and completely unaccompanied across the Atlantic, Dr Karen Weekes (54) - of Kinvara on Galway Bay - achieved so many “firsts” when she reached Barbados from the Canaries on Thursday, February 24th that it’s difficult to tabulate them all – it was an utterly exceptional achievement

International: SHANE DIVINEY (Howth)

International: SHANE DIVINEY (Howth)International: SHANE DIVINEY (Howth)

Whether it’s the special skills needed to handle a large classic gaff-rigged 15 Metre, or an experimentally-rigged offshore multi-hull, or a front-line canting keel IOR challenger, then Sean Diviney is on the potential crew list. The final week of February saw him add to his successes with the overall win the RORC Caribbean 600 aboard the TransPac52 Warrior Won, which went on to be the top 52 in American waters in 2022

MARCH

Inshore: HARRY DURCAN (Cork)

HARRY DURCAN (Cork)Inshore: HARRY DURCAN (Cork)

Racing J/80s under its new name of Munster Technological University, the former CIT inter-college squad showed they’d lost none of their oomph in the Intervarsity Keelboat Nationals at Howth in March. The margin after 18 races was 12 points over UCD, and while his crew of Ronan Cournane, Mark Murphy, Morgan McKnight and Charlie Moloney had something to do with it, one name had to go on the title, and that’s captain Harry Durcan.

APRIL

Dinghies: EVE McMAHON (Howth)

EVE McMAHON (Howth)Dinghies: EVE McMAHON (Howth)

The transition from more junior levels to youth and senior sailing is difficult at the best of times, and the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year 2021Eve McMahon of Howth found that the arbitrary dictates of personal birth dates means that she has been dealing with the demands of the Leaving Cert in her education, while at the same time beginning her departure from the younger scene to move towards the challenges of the bigger world. Meanwhile, she dominated the junior scene in some style in April 2022, winning the ILCA6s at the breezy and big wave Youth Nationals at Ballyholme.

Classics: HAL SISK (Dun Laoghaire)

HAL SISK (Dun Laoghaire)Classics: HAL SISK (Dun Laoghaire)

When Hal Sisk of Dun Laoghaire was presented with the International “Classic Boater Of The Year” Award in London on April 12th, the brief outline of his major achievements in preserving maritime heritage may have highlighted his current project - with Fionan de Barra of Dun Laoghaire and Steve Morris of Kilrush – of restoring the Dublin Bay 21 Class. But that barely scratches the surface of his extraordinary life in boat re-build, restoration or conservation, and his major input into the creation and publishing of highly-regarded books on classic and traditional boats and designers, which have become essential reading.

MAY 

Offshore: CIAN McCARTHY & SAM HUNT (Kinsale)

Offshore: CIAN McCARTHY & SAM HUNT (Kinsale)Offshore: CIAN McCARTHY (right) & left SAM HUNT (Kinsale)

Ireland's most westerly Atlantic outcrop, the Blasket Islands, are so imbued with mythology and an almost supernatural ruggedness that no-one had previously thought of using the group’s lighthouse island, Inishtearaght, as the turning point for a 240-mile offshore race. But they think outside the box in Kinsale YC. On the morning of Friday May 20th, the inaugural Inishtearaght Race got under way with a fleet which made up in quality anything it lacked in quantity, and at its finish, the winner was one of the smaller boats, and sailed two-handed at that – the McCarthy-Hunt Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl.

JUNE

Regatta: DERMOT SKEHAN (Howth)

Regatta: DERMOT SKEHAN (Howth)Regatta: DERMOT SKEHAN, pictured centre (Howth)

The Howth Wave Regatta created some sort of record for the mixture of weather it packed into its three day format, and how anyone found the energy for the legendary Saturday night party suggests superhuman stamina. With a rugged Lambay Race in its midst, Wave was for heroes, and it was the heroic Dermot Skehan - racing as ever with a crew of longtime friends and shipmates on his MG34 Toughnut - who emerged as overall winner and a worthy Sailor of the Month for June.

Offshore: MIKE & RICHIE EVANS (Howth)

Offshore: MIKE & RICHIE EVANS (Howth)Offshore: MIKE & RICHIE EVANS (Howth)

June saw the staging of a truly vintage SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow. But for those who think that success in events like this 704-mile marathon is only for seasoned sailors with many comparable races logged, the top Irish boat - the J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans, Howth YC) - was an eye-opener, as this was their first offshore major. And they almost won it, placing just five minutes behind the overall winner after out-performing many comparable boats in the final very difficult miles.

Regatta: KELLY FAMILY (Rush)

Regatta: KELLY FAMILY (Rush)Regatta: KELLY FAMILY (Rush)

Sailing is often promoted as a family sport for all ages. But if anyone doubts that this can be happily achieved with racing success thrown in, then they only have to consider the Kelly clan of Rush SC with their J/109 Storm. Aboard Storm, the patriarch Pat Kelly heads a multi-talented crew which includes three generations of his family, and they clearly demonstrated they’d lost none of the successful touch shown in previous years by winning overall in June’s four day Bangor Town Regatta on Belfast Lough.

JULY 

International: EVE McMAHON (Howth)

International: EVE McMAHON (Howth)International: EVE McMAHON (Howth)

July 2022 will be remembered as the ultra-crowded month in which sailing in Ireland really did leap back to pre-pandemic levels, something that has been reflected in its recording an unprecedented number of Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” in six distinct categories.

But in this as in everything else, Eve McMahon (18) of Howth was in a league of her own, adding a secnd nomination to her April title. She emerged from the non-sailing purdah in May and June of total concentration on revision and sitting the Leaving Cert to return afloat, and take three Gold Medals in the ILCA 6 Radial - in the Euros in Greece, the World Sailing Youth Championship in the Netherlands, and the ILCA 6 Youth Worlds in Texas – all in the month of July.

National: JOHN MAYBURY (Dun Laoghaire)

JOHN MAYBURY (Dun Laoghaire)National: JOHN MAYBURY, with trophy, (Dun Laoghaire)

The complexities of Volvo Cork Week 2022 may have obscured some of the important National Championships taking place within the regattta and its many classes. But aboard the more serious boats, the “hidden target” was the ICRA Nationals 2022, and the focus on this sharpened as the Week progressed until, in the end, the popular winner was J/109 stalwart John Maybury (Royal Irish YC) with his efficiently-campaigned Joker II, a boat which is no stranger to the podium.

Regatta: ROSS McDONALD, AOIFE ENGLISH & ROB ENGLISH (Howth & Cork)

ROSS McDONALD, AOIFE ENGLISH & ROB ENGLISH (Howth & Cork)Regatta: ROSS McDONALD, AOIFE ENGLISH & ROB ENGLISH (Howth & Cork)

Volvo Cork Week 2022 was July’s regatta highlight, and with the Royal Cork YC’s Tricentenary cancelled in 2020, the Tri-Centenary +Two had much to celebrate, not least the remarkable revival of the 30-year-old 1720 Sportsboat Class, which in 2022 was ably led by David Love. With the largest fleet at Cork, the 1720s deservedly became the focus of much attention, and the combined Royal Cork YC (Aoife English & Rob English) and Howth YC (Ross McDonald ) team with Rope Dock Atara gave a masterful display of series control to win the 1720s, and then also take the cherished silver trophy for “Boat of the Regatta”, the affectionately-named Kinsale Kettle which dates back to 1859

Inland: FRANK GUY (Lough Ree & Lough Derg)

Inland: FRANK GUY (Lough Ree & Lough Derg)Inland: FRANK GUY (Lough Ree & Lough Derg)

For most of their hundred years, the unique 18th Shannon ODs have kept themselves to themselves in their secret world of Ireland’s great lakes. But in July 2022, they went unprecedently public with their Centenary celebrated in two special two-day regattas at their historic bases at Lough Derg YC (founded 1835) and Lough Ree YC (founded 1770). The month’s fluctuating weather served up some very demanding conditions indeed, testing both light and heavy (sometimes very heavy) weather skills. It took dedication and skill to come in as overall leader in the combined results in the large fleet, but Frank Guy and his well-proven team on No 142 (built 1990) proved able for the challenge.

Services to Sailing: CHRIS MOORE (Dun Laoghaire)

Services to Sailing: CHRIS MOORE (Dun Laoghaire)Services to Sailing: CHRIS MOORE (Dun Laoghaire)

Chris Moore of the National YC had already given exceptional services to sailing - including being Commodore of both the National YC and Dublin Bay SC - when he took on the role of DBSC Honorary Secretary before the lock-downs occurred.

Thus he was running one of the world’s largest yacht racing organisations through unprecedented new challenges, a fact which was recognised with DBSC becoming the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year” for 2021. But with normality of sorts returning with the club in good heart, it was time to stand down, and in mid-July 2022 he was succeeded in the key role by Rosemary Roy. We salute Chris Moore for his exceptional service to our sport.

Youth: ROCCO WRIGHT (Howth)

Youth: ROCCO WRIGHT (Howth)Youth: ROCCO WRIGHT (Howth)

It seems like only yesterday that Rocco Wright (15) of Howth was a World star in the unmistakably junior Optimists. Yet in what seems like less than a year he has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the decidedly grown-up ILCA/Laser class at home and abroad. He was still finding his feet at the World Sailing Youth Worlds in the Netherlands in mid-July, and approaching the final race it seemed just possible that he might be on the podium. Yet with one of the most masterful displays of strategic and tactical sailing likely to be seen this year, the final race saw him getting all his ducks in precisely the right order to win him the Gold.

AUGUST

Windfoiling: HANNES LOUET-FEISSER (Carlingford)

Windfoiling: HANNES LOUET-FEISSER (Carlingford)Windfoiling: HANNES LOUET-FEISSER (Carlingford)

There have been some remarkable round Ireland circuits in extra-small and often unusual craft over the years, but a new standard was set in 2022 by Hannes Louet-Feisser of Carlingford Lough, who completed the challenge – usually unaccompanied afloat – on a Windfoiler. His longest day’s distance was 170kms, and he occasionally spent seven hours in the standing position “cruising” at speeds of up to 35kph, which indicates an exceptional level of core fitness and will-power for this 51-year-old veteran of the Irish board-sailing scene.

Regatta: SIMON O’KEEFFE (Schull)

Regatta: SIMON O’KEEFFE (Schull)Regatta: SIMON O’KEEFFE (Schull)

It’s a mixed blessing being the curator-owner of a boat designed and built by a direct ancestor in your home-port town 120 years ago. But Simon O’Keeffe of Schull has turned a challenge into a triumph by commissioning classic boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob to breathe fresh life into the family’s 1902-vintage gaff cutter Lady Min, and then rounding out the “beautiful project” by winning his class in Calves Week at Schull in August after notching successes at regattas all along the South Coast.  

Inshore: FIACHRA GERAGHTY-McDONNELL (Dun Laoghaire)

Inshore: FIACHRA GERAGHTY-McDONNELL (Dun Laoghaire)Inshore: FIACHRA GERAGHTY-McDONNELL, left, (Dun Laoghaire)

The most numerous and widespread dinghy class in Ireland is the ever-young ILCA/Laser. Yet even though a large fleet turned up for their Nationals in August at Tralee Bay, the fact that several sub-divisions took part with the class’s different rig options makes it a challenge to name the outstanding performer. But in a close-called assessment, it was reckoned that Fiachra Geraghty-McDonnell of the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire, winner after a countback in the ferociously close-fought ILCA6 Division, was the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month (Inshore)” for August.

Offshore: PATRICK BOARDMAN (Rush)

Offshore: PATRICK BOARDMAN (Rush)Offshore: PATRICK BOARDMAN (Rush)

They’re renowned for growing good things in the fertile hidden lands of Fingal up around the Rogerstown Estuary, and the local Rush SC is right on message with an expanding stream of talent in all branches of sailing. In 2022 there was an increased emphasis on Half Tonners in concert with the flotilla in Howth, and mid-August saw Rush coming through big time with Patrick Boardman’s beautifully-prepared King One (World Half Ton Champion for France in 1981) showing a clean pair of heels to take the RORC Half Ton Classic Cup from an international fleet in the Solent. 

Women on Water: LAURA DILLON (Howth and RORC)

Women on Water: LAURA DILLON (Howth and RORC)Women on Water: LAURA DILLON (Howth and RORC)

Laura Dillon of Howth is one of Ireland's most accomplished sailors under so many headings that it seems almost superfluous to point out that during August, she was at the sharp and of success in both Cowes Week and at several Irish venues where the Women on Water movement featured. 

For the fact is that she is higly ranked regardless of gender. But as it happens, in August she won both the Women's Trophy in Cowes Week and skippered the Class 1 overall winner in the National Women at the Helm event in Dublin Bay, a very special double.

Junior: Lucia Cullen (RStGYC) and Alana Twomey (RCYC & CHSC) 

Lucia Cullen (Royal St George YC) and Alana Twomey (Royal Cork YC) won Gold and took the U17 29er Female World Title in SpainLucia Cullen (Royal St George YC) and Alana Twomey (Royal Cork YC) won Gold and took the U17 29er Female World Title in Spain

Lucia Cullen of Dun Laoghaire and Alana Twomey of Cork - both 16 - have combined to form one of Ireland's most successful 29er teams to such good effect that during August at El Bais in Spain, they became the 29er Under 17 Female World Champions in addition to taking Bronze in the Open Divison of the Female Worlds.

When added to their later winning - still in August - of the 29er Female National Title in addition to being U17 National Champions, it makes for a remarkably balanced picture of achievement when added to the fact that Alana Twomey was also a member of the winning team racing team at the top-level Elmo Trophy at RStGYC.

SEPTEMBER

Dinghies: ANDY THOMPSON  (Larne)

Dinghies: ANDY THOMPSON  (Larne)Dinghies: ANDY THOMPSON  (Larne)

Andy Thompson (50), originally of Larne and East Antrim Boat Club, is one of the most successful international dinghy crews in the world. Yet he is equally successful at keeping himself under the radar, as he never has to spread the word about his exceptional abilities. A significant cohort of top skippers are well aware of the remarkable ability he has to bring out the best in boat and helmsman, for as multiple champion Shane McCarthy of Greystones puts it, “the boat leaps to life when Thompo steps aboard”. And though Andy is as demanding of himself as he is of his helms – and he is definitely demanding of the highest standards – the result at the end is another Gold in a world championship

Junior: FIACHRA & CAOILINN GERAGHTY-McDONNELL (Dun Laoghaire)

Junior: FIACHRA & CAOILINN GERAGHTY-McDONNELL (Dun Laoghaire)Junior: FIACHRA & CAOILINN GERAGHTY-McDONNELL (Dun Laoghaire)

Although it will be ILCA6 National Champion Fiachra Geraghty-McDonnell’s name on the trophy in the Junior Helms Nationals 2022, winning it was a family team effort, as his sister Caoilinn – a proven Optimist star – forsook her own place as of right as a junior helm, and elected to crew for her brother instead.

In a long and demanding series, their underlying quality of performance led to a steadily upward curve of results to make Fiachra the Junior National Champion at Schull, coming tops against a formidable line-up of established and rising talent from every leading sailing centre in the country.

International Keelboats: MICHEAL O SUILLEBHAIN (Kinsale)

International Keelboats: MICHEAL O SUILLEBHAIN (Kinsale)International Keelboats: MICHEAL O SUILLEBHAIN, right, (Kinsale) 

Micheal O Suilleabhain may well be he name that goes into the records books. Yet he will be the first to point out that not only was it a team effort, in fact it was an entire Kinsale Yacht Club effort to start putting together an exemplary challenge – initially in times of pandemic and post-pandemic - for the J/24 Europeans 2022 at Howth, when the event itself was still a distant speck on the uncertain future horizon. But a widely-supported campaign on the ICRA K25 model was launched and maintained, gradually building momentum until they reached the big one itself. There, many proven international stars were so busy keeping tabs on their familiar rivals that the rapidly-improving young Kinsale crew went into the final race with a fighting chance, and they emerged firmly in the podium frame to take the Bronze, clearly also the best-placed Irish boat.

Offshore: VICKY COX & PETER DUNLOP (National YC and Pwllheli)

Offshore: VICKY COX & PETER DUNLOP (Dun Laoghaire and Pwllheli)Offshore: VICKY COX & PETER DUNLOP (left and centre) (Dun Laoghaire and Pwllheli)

In its Golden Jubilee Season, the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association in 2022 lived up to its reputation of the points championship being contested right up to the final race. It was the immaculately-prepared J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop) from Pwllheli which came in from offstage in the concluding and historic James C Eadie Cup, snatching the 2022 Championship and the Wolf’s head Trophy with it. For the enthusiastically and skillfully raced Mojito, it was another significant prize in a good season – she also won her class in Volvo Cork Week 2022 in July.

Voyaging: NICK KATS (Clifden)  

Voyaging: NICK KATS (Clifden)  Voyaging: NICK KATS (Clifden)  

When the workmanlike-looking 39ft ketch Teddy returned to her familiar drying quayside berth in the deep shelter of Clifden Harbour in mid-September, it marked the completion of skipper Nick Kats’ tenth voyage to the Arctic, and his third detailed visit to the majestic coast of East Greenland. As ever with the Teddy’s ventures, there was extra purpose to it all, as Nick is a dedicated nutrionist whose researches may lead to him inviting the Teddy crews to join him in testing some seemingly revolting local “delicacy”. Years of this seem to have toughened the Kats’ digestion system, for during 2022’s voyage he found one such tested item very nourishing, but a crewman was violently ill. Happily, all got home safe and sound to complete a particularly satisfying voyage.

Dinghy Racing & Services to Sailing: COLMAN GRIMES (Skerries)

Dinghy Racing & Services to Sailing: COLMAN GRIMES (Skerries)Dinghy Racing & Services to Sailing: COLMAN GRIMES (Skerries)

There can have been few things more dispiriting in recent years than being in the key role in the organization of a major international sporting event in Ireland as it hung in the balance in the face of changing pandemic restrictions. Yet Colman Grimes, the central figure in staging the GP14 Worlds in Skerries, kept everyone’s sprits up despite uncertainties and changes of date from pre-2020 onwards. And when the dates were finally set for the latter half of the 2022 season, he was first to step up to the plate, putting in his own boat in as Entry #1.

It’s not unknown for an organiser to take part in the racing, but it’s very rare with a fleet of 104 boats putting pressure on venue and organisers alike. Yet he had great support in his crew Ross Gingles, and in this big event his team not only dealt successfully with some difficult racing days, but the Grimes-Gingle combo worked so well afloat that they came in fifth overall, first of all the Irish boats and ahead of other impressive opposition up to Olympic standard. It was a remarkable performance afloat and ashore. 

Offshore International:  TOM DOLAN (National YC and Meath)

Offshore International:  TOM DOLAN (National YC and Meath)Offshore International:  TOM DOLAN (National YC and Meath)

Tom Dolan is from a farming family in Meath, and started his sailing on Lough Ramor plumb in the middle of Ireland, but thanks to Glenans Ireland (now Glenua) he has been totally committed to France’s challenging solo and two-handed offshore circuit for a dozen years now. With the reputation of being L’Irlandais Volante (The Flying Irishman) in this rarefied world, in September, he added to his laurels with sixth overall and the Vivi Trophy for the top non-French participant in the Figaro Solo 2022.

OCTOBER

Inshore: GER OWENS (Dun Laoghaire) & MEL MORRIS (Newtownards)

Inshore: GER OWENS (Dun Laoghaire) & MEL MORRIS (Newtownards)Inshore: GER OWENS (Dun Laoghaire) & MEL MORRIS (Newtownards)

So many factors came into play for the 75th Anniversary of the Champions’ Cup (aka the Helmsman’s Championship or the All-Ireland) in GP 14s at Sutton Dinghy Club on October 8th/9th that its weather-imposed compression into a one day series made for a very intense mix. It went right to the wire, but the defending champion, RStGYC’s Ger Owens (who won in National 18s in Crosshaven in 2021), and his regular GP14 partner Mel Morris of Newtownards SC (her father Curly Morris of East Antrim BC won in 1967), had moved smoothly into their dynamic duo routine, and as the sun set on a deceptively gentle evening which was the calm before the storm, the salver that now thinks it’s a cup was theirs for the taking.

Ocean Rowing: DAMIEN BROWNE (Galway)

Ocean Rowing: DAMIEN BROWNE (Galway)Ocean Rowing: DAMIEN BROWNE (Galway)

Ocean rowing has come up before in our Sailor of the Month listings. But it’s an understandably rare feat, and noted former rugby player Damian Browne’s huge achievement of rowing from New York to Galway is put into deeper perspective through knowing that his shipmate at the start of the voyage needed to be air-lifted off at an early stage owing to illness. Thus Damian had to make his way solo across a notably obtuse ocean in what was essentially a two-man boat, resulting in a time-scale which is difficult to grasp. He departed on June 14th and reached Ireland on October 4th, by which time the ocean swell and the Atlantic winds were already well into the beginnings of their winter routines.

Offshore: CONOR DOYLE (Kinsale)

Offshore: CONOR DOYLE (Kinsale)Offshore: CONOR DOYLE, with trophy, (Kinsale)

While the IRC may still be the rating system of choice in northwest Europe, any movement of the action in any international direction quickly finds your boat and crew are soon into hotly competitive offshore racing events where the ORC gets equal ranking. This was the case for Conor Doyle of Kinsale and his large crew of all the talents when they arrived with his elegant X-50 Freya to be the only Irish entrant for the Middle Sea Race 2022 from Malta. But it’s now a double-system setup which they embrace with enthusiasm, as Freya won ORC 3 - a popular success for a highly-regarded and enthusiastic owner-skipper. 

International: PAT O’NEILL (Howth)

International: PAT O’NEILL, second from left, (Howth)International: PAT O’NEILL, second from left, (Howth)

Pat O’Neill of Howth and his Mojo J/80 team are well known for their success in major events across Europe. But taking on the J/80 Worlds in the class heartlands at Newport, Rhode Island was a challenge which raised the stakes by several notches, and then some. So much so, in fact, that some early success in the very international fleet was regarded as a flash in the pan. But they just kept on getting better, and though the leading American and Swedish crews stayed ahead of them right to the end to take first and second, it was third and a Bronze for Ireland at the conclusion of a hectic series.

Seniors: SEAN CRAIG (Royal St. George, Dun Laoghaire)

Seniors: SEAN CRAIG (Dun Laoghaire)Seniors: SEAN CRAIG, right, (Dun Laoghaire)

When you see Dun Laoghaire’s Sean Craig (RStGYC) racing a solo dinghy, the last thing that springs to mind would be to categorizing him as a “Senior” or “Masters” sailor. Yet it was way back in 1993 – thirty years ago – that he won the Helmsman’s Championship of Ireland in Larne while in the midst of an already prize-studded sailing career which has continued ever since. These days he’s best known for being in the frame in various categories of international competition in the ILCA/Laser 6, his October 2022 achievement being to get on podium with the Bronze Medal at the EurILCA Masters Europeans at L’Escala in Spain on October 14th.  

NOVEMBER 

Services to Sailing: PETER CROWLEY (Crosshaven)

Services to Sailing: PETER CROWLEY (Crosshaven)Services to Sailing: PETER CROWLEY (Crosshaven)

Affable Race Officer and former Royal Cork YC Admiral Peter Crowley brings comprehensive experience of participation and organisation to any major championship with which he becomes involved

The 505 Worlds 2022 from 3rd to 13th August at the Royal Cork came laden with historic associations. For though this attractive class may still look as modern as tomorrow, it goes way back, and around 70 years ago Cork Harbour was the hotbed of a busy fleet that was part of a worldwide movement. But now – like former superstar classes such as the Finn, the Star and the Dragon – the 505 class is an elite international travelling circus, making the highest demands on any venue that it selects for its Worlds.

Unfortunately for Cork in the first part of the 2022 Worlds, the event was frustrated by calms. But even here, the fact of having Peter Crowley as Race Officer was all to the good, for on the Lay Day he gave everyone a convivial harbour tour on his Beneteau Trawler Yacht Spare Times which much improved the mood. And then when the breezes came good towards the end of the week, he clicked through enough races in champagne sailing to get a real result, with the USA’s Stuart McNay & Caleb Paine winning from GBR’s Nathan Batchelor & Seam Pascoe, while best of the Irish in a 78-strong and totally international fleet were Ewan Barry & Charles Dwyer at 12th.

Services to Sailing: BILL O’HARA (Ballyholme)

Services to Sailing: BILL O’HARA (Ballyholme)Services to Sailing: BILL O’HARA (Ballyholme)

Race Officer Bill O’Hara first leapt to national fame when he skippered the Bangor Grammar School team to overall victory in the annual Britain & Ireland Schools Championship in Scotland in the days when it was an event of prime importance, which is now a very long time ago. Since then, he has starred in Olympic Finns and Lasers to the highest international levels, while his unrivalled race management expertise been enacted with many high-profile events, including the multi-stage round-the-world Ocean Race.

Thus in getting him to oversee their 2022 Worlds from 14th to 19th August at Skerries with a fleet of 104 boats, the GP 14 Association and Skerries SC really were getting one of the Main Men to see them through a challenging week, from which Ian Dobson & Andy Tunnicliff (GBR) emerged as the Champions, while the top Irish were the host club’s Colman Grimes crewed by Rob Gingles at fifth, and the top female helm was Jane Kearney of Royal North of Ireland YC in 14th, crewed by Oliver Goodhead.

Services to Sailing: CON MURPHY (Dun Laoghaire)

Services to Sailing: CON MURPHY (Dun Laoghaire)Services to Sailing: CON MURPHY (Dun Laoghaire)

There are few sailors in Ireland with more eclectic interests afloat than Race Officer Con Murphy, as he is the husband and father of Olympic sailors, his wife Cathy having raced the 470 in the 1988 Olympics, while his daughter Annalise won the Silver Medal in the Lasers in 2016 in Rio.

But with interests extending in many directions, he has long been a multi-hull enthusiast, and in September 1993 he persuaded the late Steve Fossett to bring his superb 60ft trimaran Lakota to Ireland for a joint tilt at the Round Ireland Record, which had stood since November 1986. They did it with such style that their new time stood until June 2016, when the three larger MOD 70 trimarans finally sliced a little more off it during that year’s multiple record-breaking Round Ireland race from Wicklow.

Such breadth of experience brings its own deep sense of reassuring calm at challenging moments during World Championships, and on Lough Derg in late August Con Murphy oversaw an enjoyment-plus Fireball Worlds which saw Tom Gillard (GBR) and Andy Thompson (East Antrim Boat Club) take the title, while the best all-Irish team of Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsaella (Royal St George YC) just missed the podium with a very commendable fourth overall in a notably strong fleet.

Services to Sailing: DAVID LOVEGROVE (Howth)

Services to Sailing: DAVID LOVEGROVE (Howth)Services to Sailing: DAVID LOVEGROVE (Howth)

September is always a bit of a gamble as the time for staging a major sailing championship, for although the sea temperature may be at its warmest, the closing in of the evenings and a sometimes unexpected nip in the air can combine with big winds – usually from the west – to tell us that our predecessors in sailing may have been wise in drawing most sport afloat towards a close by the end of August.

Yet, with modern boats and the growing precision of weather forecast, early September can be a real Godsend in completing the season’s main national and international events. But when Race Officer David Lovegrove arrived at the beginning of September to oversee the Royal Irish YC’s staging of the SB20 Worlds 2022, he may have seen it as just another day’s voluntary work at the top level of the sport, as he had already master-minded the Wave Regatta at Howth in early June, and he’d overseen a host of other lesser events throughout the summer before taking on the J/24 Euros at his home port in the week before the SB20 Worlds began across the bay.

It was a tough one. If September was coming in as a month of gentle mists and mellow fruitfulness, it was doing so somewhere other than Dublin Bay. This was the Big Boys’ Game, and no mistake. But they battered their way through, and by the end Jose Paulo Ramada of Portugal was the winner out of a 56-strong fleet, while best of the Irish were Royal St George’s Michael O’Connor, Davy Taylor and Edward Cook in fourth.

Afterwards, David Lovegrove supposedly retired home to rest for a while at his house on the Hill of Howth. But rumours abound about him being spotted in the main role aboard the Committee Boat at various events since the SB 20s were blasting so spectacularly around Dublin Bay. Either way, he certainly deserves praise for his extensive work on behalf of sailing, which involved him in spending 25 days afloat in various Committee Boats during 2022.

DECEMBER

International Offshore: LEE CONDELL (Limerick & Sydney)

International Offshore: LEE CONDELL (Limerick & Sydney)International Offshore: LEE CONDELL (Limerick & Sydney)

Lee Condell of Limerick has been building a successful career in the marine industry in Australia for some time now. But with his 60th birthday approaching and the much-mourned death of his father - regional sailing development enthusiast Alan Condell - in Limerick at the height of the lockdown, he felt that the up-grading of the Two-handed Division to full competitor status in the forthcoming 628-mile Sydney-Hobart Race offered a manageable challenge for something special, both to honour his father’s memory, and to acknowledge his own six decades on the planet.

He undertook what was at times a strong winds event with Lincoln Dews as shipmate on the Sun Fast 3300 Sun Fast Racing, and at one stage they were shown as leading the two-handed division, despite being  one of the smallest boats in the fleet.

They were back at third coming into the Derwent on the way to he finish at Hobart in the dark - notoriously difficult conditions. Yet they made such a good job of it that Sun Fast Racing came across the line to place second on corrected time in the Two-Handed Division.

Services to Sailing: PHILIP MAYNE & NAOMI ALGEO (Lough Ree)

Services to Sailing: PHILIP MAYNE & NAOMI ALGEO (Lough Ree) of the Shannon One Designs (above)Services to Sailing: PHILIP MAYNE & NAOMI ALGEO (Lough Ree) of the Shannon One Designs (above)

The unique and Centenary-celebrating una-rigged 18ft Shannon One Designs and their Association were already recognised in their special achievement by being co-winners (with Lough Ree YC) of the MG Motor “Club of the Year” award for 2022. But while it was all well and good to know that something very special in sailing was taking place down along the Shannon and its great lakes during 2022, it was something else altogether to keep a characterful class - whose administration has been compared to herding cats - on track through a special and lengthy programme.

In this, intensive Centenary Regattas in July at Lough Derg YC and then at Lough Ree YC were added to the traditional and time-honoured lake and river sailing programme - concluding in the Autumn - that long pre-dates the founding of the Shannon ODs in 1922.

But with longtime Shannon OD sailors Philip Mayne as Class Chairman and Naomi Algeo as Honorary Secretary, ably supported by many volunteers, the crowded programme was successfully put through from beginning to end, and the class already has plans for 2023 well-advanced.

Services to Sailing: PADDY JUDGE (Howth)

Services to Sailing: PADDY JUDGE (Howth)Services to Sailing: PADDY JUDGE (Howth)

When Paddy Judge stood down as Commodore of Howth Yacht Club at the AGM on Tuesday, 13th December 2022 to be succeeded by former Vice Commodore Neil Murphy, it marked much more than the conclusion of the usual two years in the hot seat. For, like all clubs, HYC had experienced difficult times adjusting to the changing economic realities from 2009 onwards, and the onset of the various pandemic restrictions.

A severe cost-cutting programme had become essential, and it had to be demonstrated that the club could handle the situation with a voluntary General Manager, with Rear Commodore Paddy Judge undertaking the role. For several years, he was in the clubhouse almost every day, dealing with members’ problems and quietly monitoring the onward progress of the club’s re-organisation and expansion plans.

So when he re-focussed on being a member of the “officer corps” in order to become Commodore in December 2020, Howth YC had expanded its activities afloat and ashore to become a thriving organisation with more than 2,000 members when all categories are included. And during his peak concluding year as Commodore in 2022, the club was unprecedented in its sailing successes at home and internationally, so much so that on January 8th 2023 it was named as MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year 2023”.

It had all been quietly achieved with an under-stated style of leadership which was exactly what the situation required. And at the unique HYC Commodores Lunch in November 2022, when HYC interacts with hospitality for all its neighbouring organisations and the supportive Fingal County Council, the club gave recognition to all who had been involved at a personal level with the popular presentation of a large bouquet of flowers to Paddy Judge’s wife Mary “with heartfelt thanks for the use of her husband for so many important years”.

Sailor of the Year: Voting 2022

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2022 by using our online poll.

The judges welcome the traditional massive level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing elite. After more than 25 years, the awards have developed into a premier ceremony for water sports.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to Irish sailing during 2021.

By supporting your favourite nominee, you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from Monday, January 16, until Tuesday, January 31st 2023.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2022 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE IRISH SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began over 27 years ago, the awards have recognised nearly 600 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever sailor of the year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The judges' decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

Published in Sailor of the Year
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Many thanks to the multitude of Afloat.ie followers who have made an input into the voting - concluded on Sunday (January 30th) - which is an integral part of the selection process for the annual Afloat.ie "Irish Sailor of the Year".

This is now being worked through to a final decision by the adjudicators, and the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Year 2021" will be announced this Saturday, February 5th.

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Sailing and boating sports were more frustrated than many other activities during the highly-restricted peaks of the pandemic. For although it was universally agreed that there was nowhere more healthy and infection-free than aboard a boat out on the water in a good sailing breeze, the problem was in accessing those optimal circumstances without infringing local, national and international regulations. For sailors are nothing if not highly convivial folk who enjoy few things more than exuberantly discussing their specialist sports with like-minded individuals before and after going afloat.

Thus for the past two years, we have been inspired by some very special people who patiently complied with a myriad of often difficult conditions in order to keep our world of maritime sport and recreation - and indeed our maritime world generally – functioning in a meaningful way. And we honoured them with perhaps the most eclectic mix of Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” ever recorded in the 26 years in which we have been running the competition.

Inevitably with the prospect of restrictions being eased at an accelerating pace, the world of boats is looking to the future and the exciting prospects it offers. Already it looks as though 2022 will be the busiest season ever experienced, with four World Championships in Ireland just the peak of an extraordinary programme.

But today, as we enter the final week of January, it behoves us to look back with admiration and respect for those who gave so much during the difficult times of 2021. Voting on the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year 2021” concludes on Monday week, January 31st, and immediately as February gets underway, our Judging Panel will be considering your votes (see panel on right of this page) as a very important part of the adjudication process.

In this final overview of the stars of 2021, we salute some very special sailors, all of whom deserve our gratitude and appreciation

Irish Sailors of the Month 2021

JANUARY

KIERAN COTTER

A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.

The retirement of Kieran Cotter from the Baltimore Lifeboat after 45 years of distinguished service put the focus on a remarkable individual who combines a busy life afloat with solid community and commercial activity ashore, thereby playing a key role in the building of Baltimore’s prosperity and vitality.

His lifeboat service, as revealed here is probably unrivalled in its variety, and it’s certainly no exaggeration to say that he is one of Ireland’s best-known lifeboatmen.

His contribution has been augmented by his keen awareness of the lifeboat’s larger role in every aspect of an enthusiastic maritime community like Baltimore, and it was during his time as cox’n that the Baltimore Lifeboat sent forth a racing crew which sailed to second place overall in the Inter-services Racing for the Beaufort Cup in Cork Week at Crosshaven.

JANUARY (INTERNATIONAL)

BILL O’HARA

Busy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean RaceBusy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race

When the New Year was ushered in, the announcement that Bill O’Hara of Bangor had been awarded the OBE for Services to Sailing was a cause of special pleasure in the sailing community, not just in Ireland but worldwide. Our report at the time highlighted his multiple achievements in many areas, from Olympic participation to being Principal Race Officer for the Volvo Ocean Race, and particularly revealed his international status and unrivalled abilities across a wide spectrum of sailing life.

Yet even with his high profile, Bill O’Hara is also a quiet and effective worker behind-the-scenes on behalf of sailing and sailors, a doer of good works by stealth. Thus while we’re honouring him as a major international figure, we’re reminding everyone that here is a sailor of quietly profound depths who plays a key role in our sport worldwide. 

FEBRUARY

MAIRE BREATHNACH

Maire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coastMaire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coast

The pandemic lockdowns divided the sailing world into those who complained constantly about all restrictions and did little or nothing, and those who made the best of what was permissible. Maire Breathnach and her husband Andrew Wilkes, with their challenging but rewarding 64ft steel-built gaff cutter Annabel J of 1996 vintage, had a busy 2020, with a planned voyage from Waterford to South America – which, like North America, they circumnavigated on a previous cruise – being temporarily curtailed in the Canaries with the need to replace part of their wooden mainmast. Lockdown arrived, they endured it in extremely restricted circumstances for two month, and then as some local sailing became possible, they cruised the Canaries in detail.

Meanwhile, as Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Annual, Maire inspired her fellow members to make a special effort and produce “Narratives of Nostalgia” if they hadn’t managed a cruise of some sort. The result was an eclectic production, one of the most interesting ICC Annuals of modern times. And at the ICC Virtual AGM in February, Maire was awarded the ICC’s Rockabill Trophy for seamanship in recognition of the competent way in which she and Andrew had dealt with the demands of mast and rigging problems at sea, with just the two of them on a hefty ship which could handily carry a crew of six.

MARCH

ROBERT DICKSON & SEAN WADDILOVE

The magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in JulyThe magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in July

It says everything about the quality of the of the Dickson-Waddilove team’s securing of the Tokyo Olympics 49er place, that it not only sent the spirits of the Irish sailing community soaring skywards, but in these difficult times, it helped to raise the mood of the nation generally.

The inspiration has been heightened by knowing that the path of the “Flying Fingallions” to a Tokyo place has been specially challenging. They’d a carefully planned route towards a serious challenge for a full Olympic challenge in 2024. But their unexpected yet convincing victory in the U23 Worlds in September 2018 saw a re-alignment of objectives, with a new programme towards Tokyo which was in turn upset by the Pandemic-induced year’s delay in the 2020 Olympics.

It became a continuous character-testing situation in which the two seemed to find new reserves of mindset and performance which, in the final week of March in Portugal, produced a showing which went far beyond the minimum required, and was rounded out by a victorious showing in the Medal Race.

APRIL

JACK O’KEEFFE

Jack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radarJack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radar

There are many organisations in Ireland’s varied maritime life which don’t need a high profile to do good and useful work by stealth, and you’ll find Jack O’Keeffe of Carrigaline in Cork is involved with several of them. But his recent election as Chairman for two years of the internationally-operating Drascombe Association has inevitably raised his profile, and drawn fresh attention to a range of characterful little boats which almost defy categorisation.

Yet they’re undoubtedly multi-purpose, for although their ease of trailering is one of their key feature, several have made transoceanic cruises, while others have ventured – often in small lightly-organised groups – far into hidden rivers that more orthodox cruising boats can’t reach.

The flexibility of the Drascombes’ way of doing things meant that in the stop-start times of pandemic-plagued 2020, they probably managed a better cruising season than most other boat types. And Jack O’Keeffe’s willingness to take on the mantle of pre-research and organization while leading by example makes him a very worthy “Sailor of the Month”. 

APRIL SOM (ENVIRONMENTAL)

JIMMY MURRAY

The Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabatedThe Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabated

Jimmy Murray, Director of the Irish Nautical Trust in Dublin, is our “Sailor of the Month” for April in the Environmental category for the key role he played in the commissioning of the purpose-built Liffey Sweeper, which appropriately made its debut with the backing of Dublin Port on Earth Day, Thursday April 22nd.

The well-established Irish Nautical Trust has been active for years in bringing the port and the young people of the city together in various projects. But the innovative concept of the marine-debris-gathering Liffey Sweeper has captured public imagination in a special way by pressing all the right buttons regarding many contemporary environmental concerns.

Working with leading waste-recycling companies, the Sweeper is operating in the Liffey from Butt Bridge seawards, and will also gather rubbish in the Dodder and the Tolka Estuary. With the busy City of Dublin and the highly active Dublin Port located cheek-by-jowl with an Internationally-Recognised Biosphere, the value of the work being done by Jimmy Murray and his young crews simply cannot be over-estimated. 

MAY

JOHN MINNIS

John Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish watersJohn Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish waters

Despite continuing pandemic restrictions, there was a feeling that something resembling a sailing season was getting under way with the victory of John Minnis of Belfast Lough with his First 31.7 Final Call in the Scottish Series in the final weekend of May.

Skipper Minnis and his keen crew are no strangers to being in the frame both in First 31.7 and handicap racing. But it took a special level of enthusiasm for a flotilla of cruiser-racers from Belfast and Strangford Loughs to cross the North Channel for a very controlled Scottish Series, in which the racing was certainly real and officially recognised, but just about everything else was virtual and socially distanced, with three different venues being used in the eastern Firth of Clyde.

Thus it wasn’t felt appropriate to declare an overall winner, but had they done so, Final Call’s very impressive scorecard and clear class win would have made her the favoured contender for the top title. And she confirmed her “top boat” status in July when she came south for the First 31.7 Nationals in Dublin Bay, and won by an extremely convincing margin. 

JUNE SOM (SENIOR) 

SEAN CRAIG

Sean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from itSean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from it

Laser ace Sean Craig has been on top form in June. In addition to his usual input into racing and sailing administration, he’s in the frame in both the two Laser local weekly series currently being staged by DBSC. Meanwhile, at national level, he retained the Laser Masters Radial title at his home club of Royal St George in mid-June from a record fleet, and then in the final weekend of June in brisk conditions at Whitehead on Belfast Lough, he became the winner of the Laser Radial Ulster Championship hosted by County Antrim YC, the oldest winner (at 57) of any open Laser regional event in Ireland. 

JUNE SOM (OFFSHORE)

MURPHY FAMILY & NIEULARGO

The Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis MurphyThe Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis Murphy

Time was that if a victorious Royal Cork YC vessel returned after “success abroad”, she received a nine-gun salute on arrival from the Club battery. Even though we live in more noise-conscious times, the RCYC can still wheel out a five gun salute when appropriate, but it is used very sparingly. However, on the sunny evening of Monday, June 15th when the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo returned to Crosser fresh from a brilliant overall win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, she got the full and richly-deserved treatment from Admiral Colin Morehead and his members. And though offshore racing is the boat and crew’s speciality, subsequently in the more inshore conditions of the Sovereigns Cup Coastal Division at Kinsale, Nieulargo was still right in the picture to place second overall, making for a remarkably well-balanced month of achievement which was extended well into Autumn when she was declared the ICRA Boat of the Year after winning her class in the RCYC Autumn League.

JUNE SOM (JUNIOR)

ROCCO WRIGHT

Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021

As the Optimist Worlds got into their stride on Lake Garda in the first week of June, they found Howth’s Rocco Wright to be the target helm, as his countdown to the big one had been wellnigh perfect. Previously he’d taken Bronze in the Meringa Cup series on the lake, and then in the big one in a fleet of nearly 300 boats from 31 nations with Lake Garda in fine sailing form, he won overall by an astonishing nine points, convincingly making him Ireland’s outstanding junior sailor in June. This star position was to be further augmented in September, when he won the All-Ireland Junior Championship in Schull

SOM JUNE (INSHORE)

MIKE & RICHIE EVANS

Staying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at KinsalStaying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

When the Irish J/109s hunt as a pack – as nine of them did at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale – there’s blood in the air, and anyone racing a brand new J/99 against such a mob will naturally feel vulnerable. But former Classic Half Ton Racers Mike & Richie Evans of Howth kept their cool with their fresh-out-of-the-box J/99 Snapshot. With talents of the calibre of Laura Dillon, Des Flood and Graham Curran on the strength, they were so game for the challenge that they emerged at the regatta’s conclusion as outright winners of the hyper-hot IRC 1, and the new holders of the overall trophy – the Sovereigns Cup - for good measure.

JULY SOM

EVE MCMAHON

Eve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in ItalyEve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in Italy

It says everything about Eve McMahon’s big-fleet sailing skills that she emerged as the clear winner of the Laser Youth Worlds Girls Division on Lake Garda on Saturday, July 31st with a generally consistent scoreline which would have done credit to a mature and seasoned campaigner in a senior event. Yet it was difficult for her to keep the head down and work quietly but steadily towards gaining, maintaining, losing and then regaining the overall lead, as her every movement in a boat speaks eloquently of sailing genius. This inevitably made her the target helm for the rest of the remarkably international fleet, but in the end her star quality shone through in true champion’s style. Then in December, she maintained her position as one of global sailing’s top juniors with a fourth overall in the Youth Worlds in Oman.

JULY SOM (SERVICES TO SAILING)

HAL SISK & FIONAN DE BARRA

The DB21 Naneen arrives in Kilrush in 2016 pre-restoration, with (left to right) Fionan de Barra, boatbuilder Steve Morris, designer Paul Spooner, and Hal Sisk

The restoration of all seven original Dublin Bay 21ft One-Designs (the oldest of them date from 1903) is still work in progress. But a major milestone in the process - the Cape Horn of a unique voyage – was safely put astern on Friday July 30th, when the first three superbly-restored boats sailed back into Dun Laoghaire after an absence of 35 years. Many craftsmen have been involved in this - most notably Steve Morris and his team at Kilrush Boatyard - but none of it would have happened without the undying belief of Fionan de Barra in the value of the project and its meaning for Dun Laoghaire and its maritime community, combined with the inspired support of Hal Sisk in fulfilling a vision which is a great service to sailing not only in Dublin Bay, but nationally and internationally as well. 

AUGUST SOM (OFFSHORE)

RONAN O SIOCHRU & THE CREW OF DESERT STAR

The crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustionThe crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustion

When a sailing school boat of a certain maturity starts to show consistently well in open competition in the decidedly challenging Rolex Fastnet Race, people start to take notice. And as the new-style and longer Fastnet Race of 2021 progressed, that attention increasingly focused on Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star. She was skippered by Ronan O Siochru (RStGYC) with Conor Totterdell (NYC) as his right-hand man, but otherwise crewed by keen-to-learn sailors of limited offshore experience but boundless enthusiasm

With such a setup, the watching pundits expected that Desert Star would soon drop out of her position in the top three in Class 4, and would probably be in double figures by the time she’d negotiated the final difficult approach to the finish. But far from faltering, she never put a tactical foot wrong, and in Cherbourg she was just ten minutes short of winning Class IV overall. As it was, second in one of the biggest classes and 14th overall was a sensational performance, and her entire crew share our Sailors of the Month (Offshore) award for 2021.

AUGUST SOM (INSHORE)

JOHN LAVERY & ALAN GREEN

Serial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippersSerial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippers

The efficiently-organised Flying Fifteens are Ireland’s largest One-Design keelboat class, and despite the pandemic, they have managed to stage regulation-compliant National Championships in 2020 and 2021, at Dunmore East and on Strangford Lough respectively. With former world champions and Olympic sailors from several classes among their current members, F/F sailing provides intense competition even when numbers are limited. Thus it has been remarkable that these two National Championships have been won by veteran skipper John Lavery, with Alan Green as his crew in both Dunmore East and Whiterock.

In a long sailing career which began in Optimists at the National Yacht Club in 1967, John Lavery has failed in only one thing. Despite a couple of announcements that he is permanently hanging up his sailing boots, he hasn’t. He has been enticed back with a boat called Phoenix or maybe ffoenix, and his scorecard on Strangford Lough in tricky conditions to take a 16 point overall shows that his sailing has lost none of its magic.

SEPTEMBER (OFFSHORE)

TOM DOLAN

Tom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet RockTom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet Rock

The exceptionally-demanding final 642-mile stage of La Solitaire du Figaro 2021 took the 34-strong fleet from Morlaix in Brittany northwest round the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast to the finish at Saint-Nazaire on France’s Biscay Coast. After three frustrating stages, it was as though Ireland’s Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan had been completely re-born as a solo sailor. He was first at the Fastnet, and while no-one could have staved off the multiple challenges from the chasing fleet in the flukey conditions, he still secured a podium place to take the bronze at the finish in a brilliant comeback.

SEPTEMBER (INSHORE)

CHARLIE CULLEN

Leave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentrationLeave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentration

A veteran of foil sailing at just 19, Charlie Cullen of the Royal St George YC has been cutting an increasingly impressive furrow through Waszp racing in 2021 as the national and international programme resumes. He reached new heights in the SailGP series in Saint-Tropez in mid-September to take silver, providing him with his fourth podium place in the majors of the current season (including European U20 and Slalom Championships), and further up-grading expectations for his continuing progress in the sharpest area of sailing. 

SOM OCTOBER

GER OWENS

In for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger OwensIn for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger Owens Photo: Bob Bateman

While some helms have won the All-Ireland Championship two or even three times within a relatively short time-span, none can match the Royal St George YC”s Ger Owens’ unique achievement of having a 21-year-gap between his two victories. He was a rising star when he first took it in 2000, having won the Juniors in 1996 & 1998. And with today’s greatly increased longevity, he still is a rising star. Most of his achievements in recent years have been in the GP 14s, but he has proven more than able in several classes Thus when the All-Ireland 2021 was staged in National 18s in Crosshaven at the beginning of October, he was soon at home in the class, taking the overall win in the Championship of Champions despite a trio of longtime National 18 sailors being in the line-up against him.

SOM OCTOBER (TEAM RACING)

JACK FAHY

Young sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of CarlingfordYoung sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of Carlingford

When 144 sailors descend on a club like the hospitable but relatively small (numerically-speaking) Carlingford Sailing Club for a festival of team racing, the pressure is on, both afloat and ashore. That pressure is in no way lessened by the 24 teams being drawn from nine universities all over Ireland.

All six members of the winning team have to keep their cool to make it to the top. But the pressure for this is most challenging on the winning team captain, and in October’s highlight of the 2021 Irish Universities Eastern Championship, it was a University College Dublin team captained by Jack Fahy, which took the trophy.

SOM OCTOBER (JUNIOR)

RIAN COLLINS

Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)

Young Rian Collins of Royal Cork YC has been cutting a swathe through Irish Topper racing in 2021, maintaining the special reputation of an extended family long associated with Crosshaven sailing and success. He concluded his campaigning on a high in the 38-strong Topper class (the largest and most all-Ireland fleet racing) in the weekend’s Irish Youth Championship at his home port, recording a very clearcut 12 point overall lead. 

SOM NOVEMBER (OLYMPIC)

FINN LYNCH

From despair to delight – Finn Lynch made November into summer

As 2021 drew to a close, the Irish sailing community learned yet again that there’s nothing like a major international success by one of our own to brighten the dark days of November. And when that success comes to a popular sailor who has been enduring the seemingly endless frustration of a performance drought, it’s like the sun has come out with mid-summer vigour.

Olympian Finn Lynch of the National YC brightened all our days by getting on the podium with a solid second overall at the big-fleet ILCA Worlds in Barcelona in the depths of November. His resilience in doing so was fulsomely praised by a panel of experienced sailors, who know only too well the depths of solitary despair which can be experienced by formerly successful solo campaigners who seem to have become lost in a wasteland of setbacks. With a mighty leap, our hero had freed himself. And November was transformed.

SOM NOVEMBER (TEAM RACING)

NIAMH HENRY

Former 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team RacingFormer 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team Racing

Team Racing makes for great sailing sport, and is unrivalled in its effectiveness in honing close-quarters boat-handling skills. But it’s an especially unforgiving type of contest, for although everyone is mutually reliant for success, at the very end it can often come down completey to the relative individual showing of one helm at the tail end of the final race.

Niamh Henry of Royal St George YC, sailing for Technical University Dublin in the maelstrom of the Irish Team Racing Championship at Royal Cork in Crosshaven, found herself in this unsought yet key role. Despite capsizes being part of a volatile mix in the final, she kept her cool to maintain a two boat lead over her Baltimore SC rival to produce a tied 4 points apiece finish, but with TUD on track to win the tie break and the title.

It may have looked chaotic to a casual observer. But right at the heart of it, Niamh Henry knew precisely what was needed to carry the day, and she did it.

SOM DECEMBER (INSHORE)

MARK HASSETT

Match Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie EnglishMatch Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie English

The National Yacht Club’s flotilla of Elliott 6M match-racing boats came into their own early in December, when the club staged its inaugural Invitational Match Racing Series, successfully drawing in competition from near and far to bring together a highly competitive lineup, including National Champions and Olympic sailors.

But at the end of a very busy day’s racing with something of the Dawn Patrol about its start after adverse weather on the Saturday forced the compression of a planned two day championship into one, the four helms who proceeded to the semi-finals were Mark Hassett, Brendan Lyden, Tom Fitzpatrick and Seafra Guilfoyle, making for a fairly even spread between Cork and Dublin.

However, the final was all West Cork, Lyden versus Hassett, with the latter starting well with a win. But in Race 2 he was off the pace until his crew of Adam Hyland and Robbie English obliged with a very smart spinnaker gybe set at the weather mark which enabled him to zip into a better breeze in mid-harbour to take the title and become a Sailor of the Month in 2021’s last month of all. 

SOM DECEMBER (OFFSHORE)

CONOR HAUGHEY

Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +

Conor Haughey of Malahide admits to an addiction. It’s to salt water, and long-distance voyaging. But though he has made several transoceanic passages, it wasn’t until he bought the comfortable yet swift Moody 54DS Hibernian that he reckoned he could take on the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from the Canaries to the Caribbean in a reasonably competitive style, while continuing to be crewed by friends.

They elected to do the ARC +, the two stage version which takes in a stop at the Cape Verde islands, and it was the second stage from the Cape Verdes to Grenada that saw Hibernian confirm her position as one of the flyers in the fleet. She swept in to the finish ahead of expected time on December 3rd to take Line Honours in Class and in the Cruising Division, neatly ahead of an impressive fleet which included a notable number of much larger craft.  

SOM DECEMBER (INTERNATIONAL)

GORDON MAGUIRE

Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991

A fifth win on December 30th 2021 of the annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race’s prized Tattersall Cup for overall victory – with the most recent successes being three in a row with Matt Allen’s TP52 Ichi Ban – saw ex-Pat Howth sailor Gordon Maguire confirming his position as one of Australia and the world’s most accomplished offshore racer.

His apparently easy-going demeanour disguises a will of steel when it comes to getting the best performance out of a boat, such that he is renowned for instinctively sensing the slightest change in wind conditions a nano-second before the electronic instruments give their first indications.

He sailed the 2021 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race with the added emotions of having mourned - along with all the Irish sailing community -  the death a fortnight earlier at the age of 95 of his much-loved father Neville, an equally accomplished sailor. This made the 2021 win  - coming as it does a clear 30 years after his first Sydney-Hobart race overall victory – something very special indeed.  

Sailor of the Year Voting 2021

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2021 by using our online poll.

The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After more than 25 years in existence, the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing during 2021.

By supporting your favourite nominee you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from Monday, January 3 until Sunday, January 30th 2021.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2021 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began over 25 years ago the awards have recognised nearly 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever sailor of the year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Published in W M Nixon

Who gets your vote for Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year 2021?

Afloat Sailors of the Month in 2021 kept our sport going through adversity is the view of Winkie Nixon in his review of 24 individual sailors, pairings and crews (below) who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruising, windsurfing, or sailing administration.

In February, our judging panel will announce the Irish Sailor of the Year  — and you can have your say by voting in our poll on any page of the Afloat website (see right of this page).

Irish Sailors of the Month 2021

JANUARY

KIERAN COTTER

A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.

The retirement of Kieran Cotter from the Baltimore Lifeboat after 45 years of distinguished service put the focus on a remarkable individual who combines a busy life afloat with solid community and commercial activity ashore, thereby playing a key role in the building of Baltimore’s prosperity and vitality.

His lifeboat service, as revealed here is probably unrivalled in its variety, and it’s certainly no exaggeration to say that he is one of Ireland’s best-known lifeboatmen.

His contribution has been augmented by his keen awareness of the lifeboat’s larger role in every aspect of an enthusiastic maritime community like Baltimore, and it was during his time as cox’n that the Baltimore Lifeboat sent forth a racing crew which sailed to second place overall in the Inter-services Racing for the Beaufort Cup in Cork Week at Crosshaven.

JANUARY (INTERNATIONAL)

BILL O’HARA

Busy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean RaceBusy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race

When the New Year was ushered in, the announcement that Bill O’Hara of Bangor had been awarded the OBE for Services to Sailing was a cause of special pleasure in the sailing community, not just in Ireland but worldwide. Our report at the time highlighted his multiple achievements in many areas, from Olympic participation to being Principal Race Officer for the Volvo Ocean Race, and particularly revealed his international status and unrivalled abilities across a wide spectrum of sailing life.

Yet even with his high profile, Bill O’Hara is also a quiet and effective worker behind-the-scenes on behalf of sailing and sailors, a doer of good works by stealth. Thus while we’re honouring him as a major international figure, we’re reminding everyone that here is a sailor of quietly profound depths who plays a key role in our sport worldwide. 

FEBRUARY

MAIRE BREATHNACH

Maire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coastMaire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coast

The pandemic lockdowns divided the sailing world into those who complained constantly about all restrictions and did little or nothing, and those who made the best of what was permissible. Maire Breathnach and her husband Andrew Wilkes, with their challenging but rewarding 64ft steel-built gaff cutter Annabel J of 1996 vintage, had a busy 2020, with a planned voyage from Waterford to South America – which, like North America, they circumnavigated on a previous cruise – being temporarily curtailed in the Canaries with the need to replace part of their wooden mainmast. Lockdown arrived, they endured it in extremely restricted circumstances for two month, and then as some local sailing became possible, they cruised the Canaries in detail.

Meanwhile, as Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Annual, Maire inspired her fellow members to make a special effort and produce “Narratives of Nostalgia” if they hadn’t managed a cruise of some sort. The result was an eclectic production, one of the most interesting ICC Annuals of modern times. And at the ICC Virtual AGM in February, Maire was awarded the ICC’s Rockabill Trophy for seamanship in recognition of the competent way in which she and Andrew had dealt with the demands of mast and rigging problems at sea, with just the two of them on a hefty ship which could handily carry a crew of six.

MARCH

ROBERT DICKSON & SEAN WADDILOVE

The magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in JulyThe magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in July

It says everything about the quality of the of the Dickson-Waddilove team’s securing of the Tokyo Olympics 49er place, that it not only sent the spirits of the Irish sailing community soaring skywards, but in these difficult times, it helped to raise the mood of the nation generally.

The inspiration has been heightened by knowing that the path of the “Flying Fingallions” to a Tokyo place has been specially challenging. They’d a carefully planned route towards a serious challenge for a full Olympic challenge in 2024. But their unexpected yet convincing victory in the U23 Worlds in September 2018 saw a re-alignment of objectives, with a new programme towards Tokyo which was in turn upset by the Pandemic-induced year’s delay in the 2020 Olympics.

It became a continuous character-testing situation in which the two seemed to find new reserves of mindset and performance which, in the final week of March in Portugal, produced a showing which went far beyond the minimum required, and was rounded out by a victorious showing in the Medal Race.

APRIL

JACK O’KEEFFE

Jack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radarJack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radar

There are many organisations in Ireland’s varied maritime life which don’t need a high profile to do good and useful work by stealth, and you’ll find Jack O’Keeffe of Carrigaline in Cork is involved with several of them. But his recent election as Chairman for two years of the internationally-operating Drascombe Association has inevitably raised his profile, and drawn fresh attention to a range of characterful little boats which almost defy categorisation.

Yet they’re undoubtedly multi-purpose, for although their ease of trailering is one of their key feature, several have made transoceanic cruises, while others have ventured – often in small lightly-organised groups – far into hidden rivers that more orthodox cruising boats can’t reach.

The flexibility of the Drascombes’ way of doing things meant that in the stop-start times of pandemic-plagued 2020, they probably managed a better cruising season than most other boat types. And Jack O’Keeffe’s willingness to take on the mantle of pre-research and organization while leading by example makes him a very worthy “Sailor of the Month”. 

APRIL SOM (ENVIRONMENTAL)

JIMMY MURRAY

The Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabatedThe Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabated

Jimmy Murray, Director of the Irish Nautical Trust in Dublin, is our “Sailor of the Month” for April in the Environmental category for the key role he played in the commissioning of the purpose-built Liffey Sweeper, which appropriately made its debut with the backing of Dublin Port on Earth Day, Thursday April 22nd.

The well-established Irish Nautical Trust has been active for years in bringing the port and the young people of the city together in various projects. But the innovative concept of the marine-debris-gathering Liffey Sweeper has captured public imagination in a special way by pressing all the right buttons regarding many contemporary environmental concerns.

Working with leading waste-recycling companies, the Sweeper is operating in the Liffey from Butt Bridge seawards, and will also gather rubbish in the Dodder and the Tolka Estuary. With the busy City of Dublin and the highly active Dublin Port located cheek-by-jowl with an Internationally-Recognised Biosphere, the value of the work being done by Jimmy Murray and his young crews simply cannot be over-estimated. 

MAY

JOHN MINNIS

John Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish watersJohn Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish waters

Despite continuing pandemic restrictions, there was a feeling that something resembling a sailing season was getting under way with the victory of John Minnis of Belfast Lough with his First 31.7 Final Call in the Scottish Series in the final weekend of May.

Skipper Minnis and his keen crew are no strangers to being in the frame both in First 31.7 and handicap racing. But it took a special level of enthusiasm for a flotilla of cruiser-racers from Belfast and Strangford Loughs to cross the North Channel for a very controlled Scottish Series, in which the racing was certainly real and officially recognised, but just about everything else was virtual and socially distanced, with three different venues being used in the eastern Firth of Clyde.

Thus it wasn’t felt appropriate to declare an overall winner, but had they done so, Final Call’s very impressive scorecard and clear class win would have made her the favoured contender for the top title. And she confirmed her “top boat” status in July when she came south for the First 31.7 Nationals in Dublin Bay, and won by an extremely convincing margin. 

JUNE SOM (SENIOR) 

SEAN CRAIG

Sean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from itSean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from it

Laser ace Sean Craig has been on top form in June. In addition to his usual input into racing and sailing administration, he’s in the frame in both the two Laser local weekly series currently being staged by DBSC. Meanwhile, at national level, he retained the Laser Masters Radial title at his home club of Royal St George in mid-June from a record fleet, and then in the final weekend of June in brisk conditions at Whitehead on Belfast Lough, he became the winner of the Laser Radial Ulster Championship hosted by County Antrim YC, the oldest winner (at 57) of any open Laser regional event in Ireland. 

JUNE SOM (OFFSHORE)

MURPHY FAMILY & NIEULARGO

The Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis MurphyThe Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis Murphy

Time was that if a victorious Royal Cork YC vessel returned after “success abroad”, she received a nine-gun salute on arrival from the Club battery. Even though we live in more noise-conscious times, the RCYC can still wheel out a five gun salute when appropriate, but it is used very sparingly. However, on the sunny evening of Monday, June 15th when the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo returned to Crosser fresh from a brilliant overall win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, she got the full and richly-deserved treatment from Admiral Colin Morehead and his members. And though offshore racing is the boat and crew’s speciality, subsequently in the more inshore conditions of the Sovereigns Cup Coastal Division at Kinsale, Nieulargo was still right in the picture to place second overall, making for a remarkably well-balanced month of achievement which was extended well into Autumn when she was declared the ICRA Boat of the Year after winning her class in the RCYC Autumn League.

JUNE SOM (JUNIOR)

ROCCO WRIGHT

Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021

As the Optimist Worlds got into their stride on Lake Garda in the first week of June, they found Howth’s Rocco Wright to be the target helm, as his countdown to the big one had been wellnigh perfect. Previously he’d taken Bronze in the Meringa Cup series on the lake, and then in the big one in a fleet of nearly 300 boats from 31 nations with Lake Garda in fine sailing form, he won overall by an astonishing nine points, convincingly making him Ireland’s outstanding junior sailor in June. This star position was to be further augmented in September, when he won the All-Ireland Junior Championship in Schull

SOM JUNE (INSHORE)

MIKE & RICHIE EVANS

Staying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at KinsalStaying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

When the Irish J/109s hunt as a pack – as nine of them did at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale – there’s blood in the air, and anyone racing a brand new J/99 against such a mob will naturally feel vulnerable. But former Classic Half Ton Racers Mike & Richie Evans of Howth kept their cool with their fresh-out-of-the-box J/99 Snapshot. With talents of the calibre of Laura Dillon, Des Flood and Graham Curran on the strength, they were so game for the challenge that they emerged at the regatta’s conclusion as outright winners of the hyper-hot IRC 1, and the new holders of the overall trophy – the Sovereigns Cup - for good measure.

JULY SOM

EVE MCMAHON

Eve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in ItalyEve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in Italy

It says everything about Eve McMahon’s big-fleet sailing skills that she emerged as the clear winner of the Laser Youth Worlds Girls Division on Lake Garda on Saturday, July 31st with a generally consistent scoreline which would have done credit to a mature and seasoned campaigner in a senior event. Yet it was difficult for her to keep the head down and work quietly but steadily towards gaining, maintaining, losing and then regaining the overall lead, as her every movement in a boat speaks eloquently of sailing genius. This inevitably made her the target helm for the rest of the remarkably international fleet, but in the end her star quality shone through in true champion’s style. Then in December, she maintained her position as one of global sailing’s top juniors with a fourth overall in the Youth Worlds in Oman.

JULY SOM (SERVICES TO SAILING)

HAL SISK & FIONAN DE BARRA

The DB21 Naneen arrives in Kilrush in 2016 pre-restoration, with (left to right) Fionan de Barra, boatbuilder Steve Morris, designer Paul Spooner, and Hal Sisk

The restoration of all seven original Dublin Bay 21ft One-Designs (the oldest of them date from 1903) is still work in progress. But a major milestone in the process - the Cape Horn of a unique voyage – was safely put astern on Friday July 30th, when the first three superbly-restored boats sailed back into Dun Laoghaire after an absence of 35 years. Many craftsmen have been involved in this - most notably Steve Morris and his team at Kilrush Boatyard - but none of it would have happened without the undying belief of Fionan de Barra in the value of the project and its meaning for Dun Laoghaire and its maritime community, combined with the inspired support of Hal Sisk in fulfilling a vision which is a great service to sailing not only in Dublin Bay, but nationally and internationally as well. 

AUGUST SOM (OFFSHORE)

RONAN O SIOCHRU & THE CREW OF DESERT STAR

The crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustionThe crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustion

When a sailing school boat of a certain maturity starts to show consistently well in open competition in the decidedly challenging Rolex Fastnet Race, people start to take notice. And as the new-style and longer Fastnet Race of 2021 progressed, that attention increasingly focused on Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star. She was skippered by Ronan O Siochru (RStGYC) with Conor Totterdell (NYC) as his right-hand man, but otherwise crewed by keen-to-learn sailors of limited offshore experience but boundless enthusiasm

With such a setup, the watching pundits expected that Desert Star would soon drop out of her position in the top three in Class 4, and would probably be in double figures by the time she’d negotiated the final difficult approach to the finish. But far from faltering, she never put a tactical foot wrong, and in Cherbourg she was just ten minutes short of winning Class IV overall. As it was, second in one of the biggest classes and 14th overall was a sensational performance, and her entire crew share our Sailors of the Month (Offshore) award for 2021.

AUGUST SOM (INSHORE)

JOHN LAVERY & ALAN GREEN

Serial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippersSerial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippers

The efficiently-organised Flying Fifteens are Ireland’s largest One-Design keelboat class, and despite the pandemic, they have managed to stage regulation-compliant National Championships in 2020 and 2021, at Dunmore East and on Strangford Lough respectively. With former world champions and Olympic sailors from several classes among their current members, F/F sailing provides intense competition even when numbers are limited. Thus it has been remarkable that these two National Championships have been won by veteran skipper John Lavery, with Alan Green as his crew in both Dunmore East and Whiterock.

In a long sailing career which began in Optimists at the National Yacht Club in 1967, John Lavery has failed in only one thing. Despite a couple of announcements that he is permanently hanging up his sailing boots, he hasn’t. He has been enticed back with a boat called Phoenix or maybe ffoenix, and his scorecard on Strangford Lough in tricky conditions to take a 16 point overall shows that his sailing has lost none of its magic.

SEPTEMBER (OFFSHORE)

TOM DOLAN

Tom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet RockTom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet Rock

The exceptionally-demanding final 642-mile stage of La Solitaire du Figaro 2021 took the 34-strong fleet from Morlaix in Brittany northwest round the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast to the finish at Saint-Nazaire on France’s Biscay Coast. After three frustrating stages, it was as though Ireland’s Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan had been completely re-born as a solo sailor. He was first at the Fastnet, and while no-one could have staved off the multiple challenges from the chasing fleet in the flukey conditions, he still secured a podium place to take the bronze at the finish in a brilliant comeback.

SEPTEMBER (INSHORE)

CHARLIE CULLEN

Leave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentrationLeave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentration

A veteran of foil sailing at just 19, Charlie Cullen of the Royal St George YC has been cutting an increasingly impressive furrow through Waszp racing in 2021 as the national and international programme resumes. He reached new heights in the SailGP series in Saint-Tropez in mid-September to take silver, providing him with his fourth podium place in the majors of the current season (including European U20 and Slalom Championships), and further up-grading expectations for his continuing progress in the sharpest area of sailing. 

SOM OCTOBER

GER OWENS

In for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger OwensIn for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger Owens Photo: Bob Bateman

While some helms have won the All-Ireland Championship two or even three times within a relatively short time-span, none can match the Royal St George YC”s Ger Owens’ unique achievement of having a 21-year-gap between his two victories. He was a rising star when he first took it in 2000, having won the Juniors in 1996 & 1998. And with today’s greatly increased longevity, he still is a rising star. Most of his achievements in recent years have been in the GP 14s, but he has proven more than able in several classes Thus when the All-Ireland 2021 was staged in National 18s in Crosshaven at the beginning of October, he was soon at home in the class, taking the overall win in the Championship of Champions despite a trio of longtime National 18 sailors being in the line-up against him.

SOM OCTOBER (TEAM RACING)

JACK FAHY

Young sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of CarlingfordYoung sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of Carlingford

When 144 sailors descend on a club like the hospitable but relatively small (numerically-speaking) Carlingford Sailing Club for a festival of team racing, the pressure is on, both afloat and ashore. That pressure is in no way lessened by the 24 teams being drawn from nine universities all over Ireland.

All six members of the winning team have to keep their cool to make it to the top. But the pressure for this is most challenging on the winning team captain, and in October’s highlight of the 2021 Irish Universities Eastern Championship, it was a University College Dublin team captained by Jack Fahy, which took the trophy.

SOM OCTOBER (JUNIOR)

RIAN COLLINS

Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)

Young Rian Collins of Royal Cork YC has been cutting a swathe through Irish Topper racing in 2021, maintaining the special reputation of an extended family long associated with Crosshaven sailing and success. He concluded his campaigning on a high in the 38-strong Topper class (the largest and most all-Ireland fleet racing) in the weekend’s Irish Youth Championship at his home port, recording a very clearcut 12 point overall lead. 

SOM NOVEMBER (OLYMPIC)

FINN LYNCH

From despair to delight – Finn Lynch made November into summer

As 2021 drew to a close, the Irish sailing community learned yet again that there’s nothing like a major international success by one of our own to brighten the dark days of November. And when that success comes to a popular sailor who has been enduring the seemingly endless frustration of a performance drought, it’s like the sun has come out with mid-summer vigour.

Olympian Finn Lynch of the National YC brightened all our days by getting on the podium with a solid second overall at the big-fleet ILCA Worlds in Barcelona in the depths of November. His resilience in doing so was fulsomely praised by a panel of experienced sailors, who know only too well the depths of solitary despair which can be experienced by formerly successful solo campaigners who seem to have become lost in a wasteland of setbacks. With a mighty leap, our hero had freed himself. And November was transformed.

SOM NOVEMBER (TEAM RACING)

NIAMH HENRY

Former 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team RacingFormer 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team Racing

Team Racing makes for great sailing sport, and is unrivalled in its effectiveness in honing close-quarters boat-handling skills. But it’s an especially unforgiving type of contest, for although everyone is mutually reliant for success, at the very end it can often come down completey to the relative individual showing of one helm at the tail end of the final race.

Niamh Henry of Royal St George YC, sailing for Technical University Dublin in the maelstrom of the Irish Team Racing Championship at Royal Cork in Crosshaven, found herself in this unsought yet key role. Despite capsizes being part of a volatile mix in the final, she kept her cool to maintain a two boat lead over her Baltimore SC rival to produce a tied 4 points apiece finish, but with TUD on track to win the tie break and the title.

It may have looked chaotic to a casual observer. But right at the heart of it, Niamh Henry knew precisely what was needed to carry the day, and she did it.

SOM DECEMBER (INSHORE)

MARK HASSETT

Match Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie EnglishMatch Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie English

The National Yacht Club’s flotilla of Elliott 6M match-racing boats came into their own early in December, when the club staged its inaugural Invitational Match Racing Series, successfully drawing in competition from near and far to bring together a highly competitive lineup, including National Champions and Olympic sailors.

But at the end of a very busy day’s racing with something of the Dawn Patrol about its start after adverse weather on the Saturday forced the compression of a planned two day championship into one, the four helms who proceeded to the semi-finals were Mark Hassett, Brendan Lyden, Tom Fitzpatrick and Seafra Guilfoyle, making for a fairly even spread between Cork and Dublin.

However, the final was all West Cork, Lyden versus Hassett, with the latter starting well with a win. But in Race 2 he was off the pace until his crew of Adam Hyland and Robbie English obliged with a very smart spinnaker gybe set at the weather mark which enabled him to zip into a better breeze in mid-harbour to take the title and become a Sailor of the Month in 2021’s last month of all. 

SOM DECEMBER (OFFSHORE)

CONOR HAUGHEY

Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +

Conor Haughey of Malahide admits to an addiction. It’s to salt water, and long-distance voyaging. But though he has made several transoceanic passages, it wasn’t until he bought the comfortable yet swift Moody 54DS Hibernian that he reckoned he could take on the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from the Canaries to the Caribbean in a reasonably competitive style, while continuing to be crewed by friends.

They elected to do the ARC +, the two stage version which takes in a stop at the Cape Verde islands, and it was the second stage from the Cape Verdes to Grenada that saw Hibernian confirm her position as one of the flyers in the fleet. She swept in to the finish ahead of expected time on December 3rd to take Line Honours in Class and in the Cruising Division, neatly ahead of an impressive fleet which included a notable number of much larger craft.  

SOM DECEMBER (INTERNATIONAL)

GORDON MAGUIRE

Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991

A fifth win on December 30th 2021 of the annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race’s prized Tattersall Cup for overall victory – with the most recent successes being three in a row with Matt Allen’s TP52 Ichi Ban – saw ex-Pat Howth sailor Gordon Maguire confirming his position as one of Australia and the world’s most accomplished offshore racer.

His apparently easy-going demeanour disguises a will of steel when it comes to getting the best performance out of a boat, such that he is renowned for instinctively sensing the slightest change in wind conditions a nano-second before the electronic instruments give their first indications.

He sailed the 2021 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race with the added emotions of having mourned - along with all the Irish sailing community -  the death a fortnight earlier at the age of 95 of his much-loved father Neville, an equally accomplished sailor. This made the 2021 win  - coming as it does a clear 30 years after his first Sydney-Hobart race overall victory – something very special indeed.  

Sailor of the Year Voting 2021

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2021 by using our online poll.

The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After more than 25 years in existence, the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing during 2021.

By supporting your favourite nominee you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from Monday, January 3 until Sunday, January 30th 2021.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2021 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began over 25 years ago the awards have recognised nearly 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever sailor of the year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan has been named Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year for 2020 in recognition of his fifth overall and best ever Irish result in the year's La Solitaire du Figaro Race, amid another landmark 12 months for inspiring performances in Irish sailing against all the odds thrown up in the pandemic.

September’s Sailor of the Month was announced as the overall winner at tonight's Irish Sailing Awards that was celebrated online due to COVID-19

Dolan was announced from a line up of 26 individual sailors and pairings who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruising, windsurfing, or sailing administration.

Even when Tom Dolan had been down the numbers in the early stages of one of the early legs of the four-stage 2,000 mile Figaro Race in September, Dolan and his boat were soon eating their way up through the fleet in any situation which demanded difficult tactical decisions. His fifth overall at the finish – the highest-placed non-French sailor and winner of the Vivi Cup – had him right among the international elite in one of 2020's few major events.

Tom Dolan, posted Ireland's best ever results in the 2020 La Solitaire du FigaroTom Dolan, posted Ireland's best ever results in the 2020 La Solitaire du Figaro Photo: Alexis Courcoux

The 33-year-old who has lived in Concarneau, Brittany since 2009 but grew up on a farm in rural County Meath came into the gruelling four-stage race aiming to get into the top half of the fleet and to underline his potential to Irish sailing administrators considering the selection process for the 2024 Olympic Mixed Double Offshore category which comes in for the Paris games.

Tom Dolan's foiling FigaroTom Dolan's foiling Figaro, 'Smurfit Kappa'

Having worked hard on his mental approach in the early season, Dolan made an excellent start by leading the 624 miles first stage across the Celtic Sea before Fastnet Rock. He lost four places on the approach to the light and more on the long run and reach to the finish, but the 10th place finish was a foundation to build on. He followed up with a solid 11th in the second stage and his career-best seventh on the last stage ensured he was fifth going into the last leg which could not be sailed.

It was a bravo performance achieved alone on foreign waters, such is the lot of the solo sailor. Tonight's big prize, however, underlines to the Meathman that the Irish sailing community is with him all the way. 

WM Nixon will profile Tom Dolan, the Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year 2020 in his weekly blog here on Saturday

Inclusion Award

In other awards made on the night, Pat Ryan of Galway Bay Sailing Club won the Irish Sailing Inclusion Award, given to someone who develops participation for people with all types of abilities so that they can experience sailing. Ryan was a volunteer with the Sailability Programme which ran throughout the pandemic and got children with disabilities out sailing. During lockdown we are all at risk of becoming isolated and institutionalised at home, and this is particularly so for some people with a disability. The judges were impressed that a safe and controlled environment was created for all the Sailability volunteers and participants – and this crucial and perhaps unexpected lifeline was made possible by Pat's perseverance and vision. To quote one of the young sailors, ‘Sailability helps me feel physically empowered and has provided me a welcome, social, inclusive and accepting environment where I can be myself. This has been a lifeline to me during the pandemic.’

Volunteer Award

The Irish Sailing Volunteer of the Year Award was reintroduced this year and won by John Leahy of Dun Laoghaire Harbour for his work during the pandemic with the Cruising Association of Ireland. He won out of dozens of nominations entered by the public from around the country. From the moment the pandemic hit John provided a constant stream of communication for CAI sailors – that on the surface looked like talks, presentations and Whatsapp groups, but in reality strengthened the bonds of their community and helped people enormously in a time of great crisis, loneliness and fear. As one person wrote “John’s dedication to support us is commendable and no doubt helped some with the solitude they found themselves in”.

Leadership Award

Another Galway resident recognised for their long volunteering career was Nancy Roe of Galway City Sailing Club who won the inaugural Irish Sailing Leadership Award, a brand new award to recognise leadership and vision. Nancy won the award on the basis of her long-term commitment to making sailing accessible to all – particularly families and young people including the disadvantaged or disabled or those with no previous experience.

Eve McMahon, youth sailor of the year Eve McMahon, youth sailor of the year

Youth Sailor Award

17-year-old Eve McMahon of Howth won Youth Sailor of the Year for the second year in a row on the basis of her performance at the Laser European Championships in Gdansk in Poland. This was her first senior event and she was the youngest competitor in the field by some way. Eve is now a training partner with the Irish Sailing Team and sails alongside Annalise Murphy and Aoife Hopkins.

Senior Instructor Award

Sligo featured heavily in the line-up with Sarah Nicholson of Sligo Yacht Club winning Irish Sailing Senior Instructor of the Year.

Training Centre of the Year

Wild West Sailing based in Sligo winning Irish Sailing Training Centre of the Year. The Oysterhaven Centre in Cork won the Irish Sailing Sustainability Award.

President's Award

And Ron Hutchieson won the annual President’s Award for his voluntary work with the Laser Association spanning over 40 years.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tonight from 7 pm, Irish Sailing in an 'online ceremony' will reveal the 2020 winner of the Irish Sailor of the Year award.

Selected from a shortlist of sailors who have already earned monthly awards, the Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year Award will be presented tonight as part of tonight online Irish Sailing Awards hosted by the Irish Sailing Association.

The annual battle for Sailor of the Year is drawn from an impressive list and an overall winner has been selected by the Sailor of the Year Judges.

Afloat Sailors of the Month 2020 kept our sport going through adversity is the view of Winkie Nixon in his review of a line up of 26 individual sailors and pairings who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruising, windsurfing, or sailing administration.

This year's award marks the 25th anniversary of the scheme,  a milestone Afloat honoured last weekend with a roll-out of the outright overall winners of the past 24 years.

The 2020 Irish Sailing Awards are taking place online and you can attend the virtual event, click this link here.

Published in Sailor of the Year
Tagged under

In these long-lived times, a Silver Jubilee is not what it used to be in an era when Golden Jubilees, Centenaries, Tricentenaries and whatever you're having yourself are cascading around us in an almost continuous nostalgia-fest.

Nevertheless the healthy Quarter Century of the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Year" contest deserves celebration, as it has evolved since its inception to give a true reflection of Irish sailing in all its historic and extraordinary variety. And it has done this by being based on monthly awards which – at an early stage – weren't found to be enough to truly reflect our sport's exceptional diversity, and so in some months the adjudicators have allocated two or even three awards.

Thus although this weekend we honour the outright overall winners of the past 24 years, we do so in the knowledge that each of them represents the tip of a decidedly impressive iceberg which, in a busy year, will have seen between twenty and thirty very special sailors honoured for exceptional achievements that, in the one month when they shone with extra vigour, were genuinely incomparable.

Failure is an orphan, but success has many parents. Yet as it happens, there really were several inputs for the creation of Ireland's "Sailor of the Year" competition back in the winter of 1995-96, for it was something whose time had clearly come.

In September 1995 John Lavery and David O'Brien of the National YC had won the Fireball Worlds in Dublin Bay, and as winter drew in, they were invited to the glitzy Texaco All-Star Sports Awards in Dublin, where the attendees had been selected by the sports editors of the national newspapers.

David O'Brien and John Lavery on their way to winning the Fireball Worlds in Dublin Bay, September 1995David O'Brien and John Lavery on their way to winning the Fireball Worlds in Dublin Bay, September 1995. The celebration of their success at the Texaco All-Star Sports Awards two months later played a role in the creation of the Sailor of the Year contest based on monthly awards in 1996

As it happened, there had already been a sailing presence in this gala ceremony back in 1974 when Bill Whisker of Ballyholme was there as the GP14 World Champion. But generally sailing was seldom represented, and the two Fireball stars of 1995 got to thinking of how our sport might have its own All Stars Annual event, where people from widely different sailing disciplines might get together to celebrate our sometimes crazy world of people who sail boats.

Meanwhile, the formidably effective Deirdre Farrell, Press Officer for the rapidly expanding Irish Distillers, was receptive to ideas for a broader involvement with sailing sponsorship. For although she ran the boisterous prize-giving for the biennial Round Ireland Race, she'd been particularly impressed with the turnout at the Round Ireland Sailing Record Gala Dinner which Cork Dry Gin sponsored at the National YC in November 1993 to celebrate the new and truly astonishing record set by Steve Fossett, Con Murphy, Cathy Mac Aleavey and their shipmates in the 60ft trimaran Lakota.

The celebration of Lakota's 1993 Round Ireland Record with an impressive assembly of sailors from many backgrounds in the NYC in November 1993 contributed to shaping the template for subsequent "Sailor of the Year" award ceremonies. Photo shows (left to right) Con Murphy, Cathy Mac Aleavey, Steve Fossett, David Scully and Brian Thompson The celebration of Lakota's 1993 Round Ireland Record with an impressive assembly of sailors from many backgrounds in the NYC in November 1993 contributed to shaping the template for subsequent "Sailor of the Year" award ceremonies. Photo shows (left to right) Con Murphy, Cathy Mac Aleavey, Steve Fossett, David Scully and Brian Thompson

It was something which had to be put into perspective to give it meaning, so in the early Autumn of 1993, Deirdre Farrell worked in conjunction with what was then print Afloat Magazine to extract a list of developing round Ireland sailing times going back to the 19th Century. Those who were in that list and still happily with us were invited along to a unique one-off event, whose participants reflected an even more diverse Irish sailing scene than that provided by the Round Ireland Race prize-givings. For instance, we'd the likes of Steve Fossett of Lakota rubbing shoulders with Rob Henshall from Fermanagh, who'd gone round Ireland unaccompanied on a Bic Sailboard, and there were legendary deep-sea cruisers who hadn't thought in terms of racing or records for years.

That was an inspirational memory, and it was fascinating how, when an idea's time has arrived, it can take shape with lightning speed. All-encompassing monthly awards were clearly the way to go in building up a "Sailor of the Year", and a link-up with the Irish Independent newspaper - for which I wrote a weekly sailing column for more than thirty years - gave it extra heft when allied to the "central command" of Afloat Magazine with realistic support from Cork Dry Gin.

The first Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Year", Mark Lyttle is seen in training in Dublin Bay for the 1996 OlympicsThe first Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Year", Mark Lyttle is seen in training in Dublin Bay for the 1996 Olympics. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

Still at it….Mark Lyttle in Dublin Bay September 2018, immediately after winning the Premier Division in the World Laser MastersStill at it….Mark Lyttle in Dublin Bay September 2018, immediately after winning the Premier Division in the World Laser Masters

Much has changed since, but the line of the Afloat.ie "Sailors of the Month" has been a strong and steady golden thread which now – 25 years on – has in its time given a well-deserved place in the spotlight to more than 600 individual monthly winners, all of whom - as the competition realized its full potential and the awards ceremony took on a smooth-running structure – will have been present at one of the annual gatherings when the gongs were distributed and the overall winner emerged.

Quite a few of them were, of course, to win monthly awards in several years, and two very special sailors have won the annual overall award twice – Anthony O'Leary of Crosshaven in 2010 and 2014, and Annalise Murphy of Dun Laoghaire in 2012 and 2016. But much and all as we'd like to mention all the 600 or so sailors who have featured in the monthly awards since 1996, in this age of brief concentration spans, the 24 winners until now will be quite enough to be going along with for today:

Mark Mansfield of Crosshaven was overall winner in 1999Mark Mansfield of Crosshaven was overall winner in 1999

SAILORS OF THE YEAR 1996-2019

1996 MARK LYTTLE (Dun Laoghaire)

Top Irish Laser sailor at home and abroad, successful debut at Atlanta Olympics including race win. (He was subsequently winner in World Laser Masters in Dun Laoghaire, 2018 – sailing is truly a sport for life).

1997 TOM ROCHE (Dun Laoghaire)

Top-scoring skipper in best-ever Irish Admirals Cup Team, placing fourth overall in thirteen teams

1998 TOM FITZPATRICK & DAVID McHUGH (Howth & Wicklow)

Top Irish 470 sailors at home and abroad

1999 MARK MANSFIELD (Crosshaven)

1720 European Champion in big-fleet event, All Ireland Helmsman's Champion

2000 DAVID BURROWS (Malahide)

Top Irish Finn, race-winning performance in Sydney Olympics 

David Burrows of Malahide, Sailor of the Year 2000David Burrows of Malahide, Sailor of the Year 2000. With the Internet still in its infancy, it was amazing how much info and promise you could cram into a magazine cover

2001 MARIA COLEMAN (Baltimore)

Olympic Women's contender, ranked second in world in Europe Class by ISAF

2002 ERIC LISSON (Crosshaven)

Round Ireland winner with multi-champion Cavatina

2003 NOEL BUTLER & STEPHEN CAMPION (Dun Laoghaire & Swords)

Laser 2 World Champions

2004 EAMONN CROSBIE (Dun Laoghaire)

Round Ireland Winner and multiple offshore champion with Ker 32 Voodoo Chile 

Maria Coleman of Baltimore was the first female Sailor of the year after an ISAF global ranking of second in the Women's Europe ClassMaria Coleman of Baltimore was the first female Sailor of the year after an ISAF global ranking of second in the Women's Europe Class

2005 JARLATH CUNNANE & PADDY BARRY (Mayo, Connemara & Dun Laoghaire)

Circuit of Arctic Ocean with self-built expedition yacht Northabout

2006 JUSTIN SLATTERY (Wexford & Kinsale)

World-class professional offshore sailor, on winning boat twice in Volvo Ocean Race

2007 GER O'ROURKE (Kilrush & Limerick)

Overall winner 2007 Rolex Fastnet Race, also class winner Sydney-Hobart Race and second overall Transtlantic Race with Cookson 50 Chieftain 

Ger O'Rourke of Limerick helms his Cookson 50 Chieftain to the finish line to become overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007Ger O'Rourke of Limerick helms his Cookson 50 Chieftain to the finish line to become overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007

2008 DAMIAN FOXALL (Derrynane, Co Kerry)

Overall winner and co-skipper with Jean-Pierre Dick in Barcelona World Race

2009 MARK MILLS (Wicklow)

Rapidly-rising international design star, particularly successful in emerging Southeast Asia market

2010 – ANTHONY O'LEARY (Crosshaven)

Team Captain and Boat Skipper for Ireland's first Commodore's Cup win

2011 - GEORGE KENEFICK (Crosshaven)

Multiple success across several disciplines including All Ireland Helmsman's Championship

2012 - ANNALISE MURPHY (Dun Laoghaire)

Fourth place in Women's Laser Radials in London Olympics, was in lead for first three days.

2013 - DAVID KENEFICK (Crosshaven)

Figaro Solo "Rookie of the Year", aged just 22 

David Kenefick (22) of Crosshaven racing his Figaro 2 FullIrish to be Rookie of the Year in the 2013 Figaro SoloDavid Kenefick (22) of Crosshaven racing his Figaro 2 FullIrish to be Rookie of the Year in the 2013 Figaro Solo

2014 - ANTHONY O'LEARY (Crosshaven)

Captain and boat skipper with Irish Commodore's Cup team in regaining trophy

2015 - LIAM SHANAHAN (Dun Laoghaire)

Winner of Dun Laoghaire-Dingle race and ICRA Boat of Year with family-campaigned J/109 Ruth

2016 - ANNALISE MURPHY (Dun Laoghaire)

Silver Medal in Women's Laser Radial at Rio de Janeiro Olympics

2017 - CONOR FOGERTY (Howth)

Class and handicap winner in Single-Handed Transatlantic race with Sunfast 3600 Bam

2018 – ROBERT DICKSON & SEAN WADDILOVE (Howth, Lough Ree & Skerries)

Gold Medal in Int. 49er U23 Worlds

2019 - PAUL O'HIGGINS (Dun Laoghaire)

With JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, ICRA Boat of Year, ISORA Champion, and winner Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race

2016 winner Annalise Murphy with the new 2017 winner Conor Fogerty at the awards ceremony in the RDS2016 winner Annalise Murphy with the new 2017 winner Conor Fogerty at the awards ceremony in the RDS, February 2018. Photo: Brian Turvey

Next week we'll know who is the Silver Jubilee winner, but for now some memories of winners and awards ceremonies won't go amiss when current circumstances prevent the physical presence of both.

For there certainly was a time back in the early noughties, in an era when Cork Dry Gin were still allowed to sponsor sporting events, when the annual gathering in the theatre and socialising area in the Visitors Centre at the Jameson Distillery in Dublin was a major Springtime event which knocked the winter for six, and accelerated the planning and anticipation for the new season.

Indeed, it became such a fixture that we found ourselves being drawn into the world of high diplomacy. As Anglo-Irish relations thawed after the Good Friday agreement of 1998, there was increasing talk of a Royal Visit to Ireland, and the powers-that-be were casting around for events which could accommodate preliminary visits by junior royals to test the waters. Princess Anne was noted for her interest in sailing, and gradually the idea took shape that she might do the honours at the "Sailor of the Year" awards up at the Distillery.

2003 Laser 2 World Champions Stephen Campion and Noel Butler with Anne, Princess Royal, at the 2003 Sailor of the Year  Awards ceremony2003 Laser 2 World Champions Stephen Campion and Noel Butler with Anne, Princess Royal, at the 2003 Sailor of the Year Awards ceremony in the Jameson Centre, February 2004

It was a very Irish solution to a potentially tricky international sticking point. But the Princess Royal is a good sport, seemingly game for anything, and if boats are involved so much the better. As for the setup at Irish Distillers, they had Deirdre Farrell on top of her form to ensure that all went smoothly, which it duly did. So much so, in fact, that we have the photo from the ceremony of 2004 when Noel Butler and Stephen Campion received the big award of 2003 for their Laser 2 World Title as though a presenting Guest of Honour of this calibre was par for the course.

It was leading into a time time when the Irish economy was accelerating so rapidly that in one crazy year we'd no less than three different Irish Commodore's Cup teams, and it wasn't until people slowed down with the "new economics" of 2008-2009 that things became focused, resources were better utilized, and Anthony O'Leary assembled and led a pared-back team which did the business in 2010 – Ireland had finally won the Commodore's Cup, and he became clear Sailor of the Year

However, the economy was taking so long to emerge from the crash of 2009 that Ireland by-passed the 2012 series, but came back with a bang in 2014 with O'Leary leading again to such good effect that the Commodore's Cup was ours once more, and he was the first to become Sailor of the Year twice.

That said, in the missed year of 2012 another rising talent ably filled the gap. Annalise Murphy had been right on track for medal honours at the 2012 London/Weymouth Olympics until the final race – staged absurdly close to the flukey shore to facilitate spectators – became such a lottery that she did well to hang on to fourth in the final tally. But that brought the National YC star a deserved Sailor of the Year title which she replicated in style in the Rio Olympics by taking the Silver and becoming the second person to register the double in the "Sailor of the Year" listings.

Yet although racing inevitably dominates the single yearly title, the monthly awards reflect every aspect of our life afloat, and in 2005, cruising finally came out tops. It was a hectic year, as Peter Killen of Malahide and his merry men were making a pioneering cruise of the Antarctic with the Amel Super Maramu Pure Magic. But at the other end of the planet, Jarlath Cunnane and Paddy Barry on the former's own-built expedition yacht Northabout were in process of completing their circuit of the Arctic Ocean, and when Northabout successfully returned to Clew Bay in October, they became hot favourites for the 2005 Sailors of the Year title.

The contrast in Sailor of the Year winning boat types – Arctic circumnavigator Northabout (Jarlath Cunnane & Paddy Barry) returns to Clew Bay and the benign presence of Croagh Patrick in October 2005The contrast in Sailor of the Year winning boat types – Arctic circumnavigator Northabout (Jarlath Cunnane & Paddy Barry) returns to Clew Bay and the benign presence of Croagh Patrick in October 2005………Photo: Rory CaseyRobert Dickson and Sean Waddilove get up a head of steam to win the 49er U23 Worlds at Marseille in September  2018 …..and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove get up a head of steam to win the 49er U23 Worlds at Marseille in September 2018

Inevitably the health of the national economic cycle plays a role in sailing activity, and in 2009 things were barely on tickover on Irish waters. But there were green shoots and fresh opportunities elselwhere, and international County Wicklow-based yacht designer Mark Mills – who had first leapt to fame in 1996 with Aztec for Peter Beamish of Dun Laoghaire, where the boat is still based but now called Raptor - grasped opportunities in southeast Asia and other localised hotspots of economic vitality such as the Mediterranean.

He did so with his boats gaining so much race success that he became Sailor of the Year, an unusual but popular choice which has been reflected in 2020 when he became Sailor of the Month in April for international awards when lockdown was preventing practically all other sailing.

But for the most part, it has been actual sailing which has won out, and inevitably it has been racing which sets the pace and wins the gongs. Looked at overall, the home ports of our Sailors of the Year reflect the focusing of the numbers, with the main centres figuring significantly in a listing in which both Crosshaven and Dun Laoghaire provide double winners. But it is Crosshaven which has two siblings as winners with George and David Kenefick, and within two years of each other too.

However, in taking the complete overview, if you really want to give one of your male offspring a head start in the long race to become the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Year", you might do well to think favourably of calling him Mark or David……

Meanwhile, here's a final detailed look at the 2020 lineup, for which voting concluded on January 30th

Published in W M Nixon
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Who gets your vote as Afloat Sailor of the Year 2020? Afloat Sailors of the Month 2020 kept our sport going through adversity is the view of Winkie Nixon in his review of a line up of 26 individual sailors and pairings who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruising, windsurfing, or sailing administration.

In February, our judging panel will announce the Sailor of the Year  — and you can have your say by voting in our poll on any page of the Afloat website.

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2020 by using our online poll (see right of this page). The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After two decades the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

As in previous years, the overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing during 2020.

You can read more from Afloat's WM Nixon here.

By supporting your favourite nominee you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from Monday, January 11 until Saturday, January 30th 2020.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2020 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began over 25 years ago the awards have recognised nearly 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever sailor of the year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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